All Courses Forums Course Discussion Forums Spiritual Care of LGBTQ Persons Starting the Conversation: LGBTQ spiritual needs

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    • #4969

      As we all take a few days to dive into Bert’s book, I wanted to start us off with a couple of questions to chew on:

      What experiences have you had so far with LGBTQ patients, and what are your perceptions of the unique needs of this population?

      Also,

      What specific questions or cautions do you carry with you regarding ministry to this population?

    • #4972

      Joy Freeman
      Participant
      @jfreeman

      I am sure I have served more LGBTQ patients than I realize, in my experience in my midwest setting the patients tend to keep it low key.  I have found that I have to listen closely for cues such as use of the word partner which is more common to hear than the use of significant other, spouse, wife or husband, although use of wife or husband is becoming more common to hear more openly where I am at.

      There is one patient in particular who had a significant impact on my chaplaincy and my own personal transformation. This was a young gay man with a significant new diagnosis.  He was an incredibly faithful young man, seeking to connect deeply with his faith, struggling to figure out where he fit within his church tradition that gave him two choices be celibate and allowed to fully participate in the church and ministries he was a part of already or live fully as a gay man and not experience the full fellowship of his church. I spent most of my time with him listening deeply and being present to the deep pain he was in as he tried to figure out how to live his life authentically.  This was several years ago and I don’t know what happened to him, but hearing his pain and struggle changed me and was the catalyst for my transformation to knowing the only loving, God embracing response is full inclusion.

      I find that more recently many of my interactions have happened more at the end of life and in difficult traumatic death situations. Here I have found that much of my role has been to work to affirm and make sure that the partner/spouse is fully included at the bedside.  One recently was a couple who was engaged to be married soon, tragically the patient died I found myself encouraging the living partner to share with me about how they met, what they had hoped for their future together and affirming her important place as she seemed to be more set aside from the other friends and family of the patient.

      One of the issues I sense that may be an important one for LGBTQ persons is that of the need for DPOA paperwork to secure the place of the partner as decision maker – particularly in situations where there may be family rifts and state law has blood next of kin laws as decision makers unless other wise stated by a DPOA.

      Personally I try to walk with caution when I am ministering to this population because I know I do not have enough of an understanding of life journey they must walk as a marginalized person.  I am very aware of my privilege as a married, heterosexual white woman.

      I feel like in many ways I don’t even know what I don’t know so don’t really even know what questions I should be asking here.

      On the journey,

      Joy

      • #4974

        Thanks for sharing these poignant experiences, Joy. You have hit on several key pieces of spiritual needs already–the need for full inclusion, for normalization of relationships, and for affirmation. It would be rare for LGBTQ individuals in my generation to have never experienced religious discrimination, harassment, or persecution in some shape throughout their lives. Younger generations are growing up in a somewhat different world, so their experiences may not be quite so jagged. But  religion is often the last bastion of prejudice, and so all generations are at risk of hearing words of exclusion and persecution rather than love and grace from their religious leaders and institutions.

        It’s interesting that you mentioned the need for advance directives. In North Carolina, married couples receive something like 200 rights that non-married couples are excluded from. For many years, LGBTQ couples were by definition denied access to all these rights. So very early on, Cath and I had documents notarized, establishing each other as healthcare power of attorney. The fact that we were not allowed to get married gave me a very different perspective on other couples (gay, straight, or otherwise) who, for a variety of reasons, do not get married. While the church has been busy excluding anyone who is engaging in a sexual relationship outside marriage, I was trying to figure out what a person of faith is supposed to do when engaged in a committed relationship in which marriage was not an option. I come from a Baptist family (progressive theologically, but not in some other ways), and so some of those other assumptions and prejudices I had unconsciously carried from my family about “sex outside of marriage” had to get re-evaluated when I was that person who wasn’t conforming to the carefully prescribed “appropriate” social and sexual mores.

        Cath and I had a commitment ceremony in 2010 in our local congregation–a UCC church. I was unable to announce it too publicly, because I was not out to administrators at the hospital at that time. But we had lots of family and friends come in to help us celebrate. The ceremony was a bit of a blend of traditional and radically different. Then, in 2014, when the Supreme Court made marriage legal, we had a second ceremony, smaller and more private. So we celebrate an anniversary on May 29 and another anniversary on Oct. 20 each year.

        You also mentioned the use of the word partner. I think I am becoming more of an anomaly in my preference for the term partner or spouse. But I do not like the word wife. Those 200 rights that we could get as a married couple, along with my partner’s strong desire to get married legally, led me to make our union legally recognized. But in some ways I feel that the institution of marriage has been seriously marred and discredited. Not to mention the patriarchal overtones inherent in the term “wife.”

        That leads me to one simple tip for communicating with non-traditional couples: use the language that they use. Just like with transgender individuals’ choice of pronouns that should be respected, I would encourage folks to listen to the language that couples use to refer to themselves and each other, and use those same terms. Even if someone uses the term “friend” for a romantic partner, as was formerly very common, that is an indication to the listener that they don’t feel safe. If the listener rushes to “normalize” by putting a different label on the relationship, the individual could feel extremely vulnerable and disrespected. Using their terminology and letting them “come out” when ready is an important way to show respect and dignity.

        These are some of my initial musings…

      • #4975

        Joy Freeman
        Participant
        @jfreeman

        Melani,

        Thank you for these insights, particularly the listening for their language.  It seems to me that as chaplains we can be helpful advocates in using their language in how couples refer to themselves when communicating with the rest of the care team.  It would seem to me that by using their language with the care team helps the care team also know what language to use as well and thus we together create a place of feeling safe – I would hope.

        Your reflections around marriage, the word wife, sex and so much more opened my eyes to the fact that it gets internally very complicated sometimes, particularly I think as we still live within the heritage of puritan and victorian ideals relating to these topics. It’s a legacy I wish we were not still trying to undo in many ways. And yes religion seems to be the last place to move towards inclusivity.

        Some of my return musings…

        Time to call it a night.

        Joy

    • #4977

      Rick Underwood
      Moderator
      @RickUnderwood

      Thanks, Joy and Melanie for your insightful comments. I hope others will jump in soon.

      Since I have had an interest in knowing more on this subject for many years and since I have read Bert’s book, I since my 17 year old grandson identifies as guy, I would like to be apart of this important discussion.

      In answer to Melanie’s question, I could share many relationships and situations along the way that brought me into direct contact LGBTQ persons. But, I’ll try to summarize.

      When I began as a pastoral counselor in the middle 70’s at the Baptist Hospital’s Pastoral Counseling Center, we had a contract with the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to see their students if they needed pastoral counseling. At one time, over half of my caseload was LGBTQ seminary students. They taught me about the bullying and trauma they had experienced, many times by Christian, religious “leaders”.

      Throughout the years, I had the opportunity of counseling with two pastors who were married but knew they were gay. Some of their trauma grew out of trying to pretend for years that there heterosexual.

      These are just a few of the experiences that helped me rethink scriptural and theological teachers learned in fundamentalist churches growing up in the deep south.

      Today, it amazes me that some evangelicals still use the three “clobber passages” to hold on to these old, inaccurate interpretations of these few verses.

      I am deeply committed to find ways to enhance transformation in the way many people still view LGBTQ persons.

      As a PRN Chaplain, I have run into the advance directive issue and the funeral decision making issue for long time partners who have not been able to use the legal measures to protect them.

      My most recent experience is with my 17 year old grandson who connected with a 47 year old man on the Internet and had at least one overnight stay. My concern here is not at all the fact that two gay persons found each other but the discrepancy in age and the laws that are at play. Would be interested in others  ‘ thoughts on this situation.

      Rick

       

       

      • #4980

        Joy Freeman
        Participant
        @jfreeman

        Rick,

        Thank you for joining us.  I look forward to what insights you have to bring to the conversation from your years of experience.

        Your concern over your grandson, raised concern for me as well – and simply and only from the perspective of the age discrepancy and the fact that it was an adult with a minor.  The situation on the surface raises concern for great risk for abuse and entry way into other risky behaviors in this situation.  I would say the same concerns follow here as if it were an older man with a teenage girl or older woman with a teen age boy.  I will be holding you in prayer as you seek clarity and wisdom in this situation.

        Joy

      • #4985

        Thanks for these comments, Rick. And thanks for sharing as a participant!

        As a graduate of SBTS (in the 90s), I’m struck by your statement that half of your caseload consisted of LGBTQ students dealing with the fallout from their identities. Wow. I cannot overstate the crucible that the seminary was for me–coming to terms with my own identity, coming out to another person for the first time, trying to reconcile my orientation with the teachings of the seminary and the church, and trying to figure out how in the world I would find a path forward for myself. That was in some ways the worst/hardest time of my life. I’m thankful you were there for my colleagues who came before me.

        I also want to speak to another issue you brought up–the cost of the closet. Hiding your true self, pretending to be someone you aren’t, protecting yourself by changing pronouns or never talking about your personal life in a work setting or in church–all of these things are incredibly expensive and can rob a person of the freedom to live their life with integrity and meaning and hope. I am convinced, from my own experience, that a person cannot be or feel “normal,” develop meaningful relationships, or thrive while living in the closet. I spent so much of my life being “on guard,” worried that I would be “found out,” and trying to figure out where I was safe and where I was not, that I believe a lot of my creative and productive energy for work, engagement in the world, and pursuing my dreams was lost. If a person hasn’t had to do that, it would be very difficult to understand the significance of that internal cost.

        And, I echo Joy’s comments about your concerns for your grandson, Rick. Such a challenge to navigate those waters. I’m thankful that he has good mentors in his family and hope that he will feel safe reaching out for support and guidance.

      • #4992

        Joy Freeman
        Participant
        @jfreeman

        Melanie,

        Thank you for speaking to the cost of living “in the closet.”  I think on some level I got the concept of what you talked about, but never really understood the the depth of the cost until now.  It raises for me a thought/question of safety on a whole other level.  It’s just now forming so I hope I can clearly state my question.  We have touched on feeling safe in the public external space, I wonder if there is also an element of feeling safe internally with one’s self, identity and beliefs and that until that internal work for clarity and internal reconciliation is done there is also maybe an element of feeling unsafe with or with in one’s self? I’m not even sure safe with oneself is exactly the right way to state it, but it’s as close as I can come to putting the question in words at the moment.

        Joy

      • #4998

        Thanks for raising this question Joy. I’ll see if I’m understanding it correctly. In addition to the homophobia in the world around us, there is of course the reality of “internalized homophobia” that leads many people to self-hatred, self-condemnation, and for some, suicidal inclinations. The culture’s power and pressure to conform is so strong that anyone who falls outside the dominant culture can begin to feel that they are inherently bad, wrong, a defect, etc. My partner actually is on the autism spectrum, so we have had many conversations about internalized cultural expectations, and we are constantly trying to reframe our experience as “the norm” for us, regardless of what the world tells us is OK. This is a difficult place to live in every day of one’s life.

        For me, as I mentioned earlier, recognizing my sexual orientation and beginning to accept it happened within the crucible of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where I was a student. I had had virtually no prior interactions with people whom I knew to be gay. I did not want that to be who I was. Few people, I believe, desire a life of oppression, ridicule and scorn (hence my belief that sexual identity is not chosen). So I entered a several-year process of self-condemnation, trying to force myself into society’s mold (dating guys), feeling like I was not worthy of love, but by this time well into my MDiv program. At the same time, the relationship I had with another female student during that time felt so deeply meaningful and satisfying, that I could not deny those feelings either. So I was in a conundrum. “Am I called to ministry or am I gay” felt like a real question for awhile. Do I leave and try to find work in a different field? Do I pretend this is not who I am and hope it will go away? Do I lead a double life? The double life was my answer for more years than I wanted it to be. But for a long time that was the best I could do to honor who I was and somehow still hold onto the belief that I could still be loved and called by God.

        I think that the process of “coming out of the closet” is about simultaneously confronting the cultural homophobia AND our internalized homophobia. The two are inextricably linked, and the coming out process involves both the internal and the external confrontations in a sort of dance with each other. For some people with a very strong sense of self, and who may be less influenced by society’s expectations, coming out is a clear dismissal of any internalized homophobia. For others, coming out in safe and affirming places is a means of finding support to overcome the internalized homophobia. I’m not sure if this makes sense, or if it answers your question. Feel free to rephrase or follow up if I’m not there yet.

      • #5002

        Joy Freeman
        Participant
        @jfreeman

        Melanie,

        Yes this is what I was trying to wrap my words around, the extreme internal vulnerability to oneself as they deconstruct embeded theology and beliefs from childhood and up and construct new, more authentic ones.  Thank you for so elloquently responding and helping me get my own thoughts more solidified in my own head – and heart.

        Joy

    • #4981

      Mary M. Wrye
      Member
      @mmwrye

      Good morning all,
      As I read and ponder your posts, I have thought about discussions I have had with patients and their long time partners about their legal rights to make health care decisions. I have encouraged them to do the paperwork to make things legal. I too live in the “blood relative” state for decision-making unless otherwise designated. I will have to say that many of those conversations have been with opposite sex couples that have been together for YEARS but just never got married. A frequent thing around here.

      I think your point, Melanie, of listening to the language is an important one. Early on, I made the mistake of assuming the relationship of folks in the room, so now I just ask “And you are her….?” That gives them room to define the relationship as they see it. And then I understand the language and the relationship.

      When I have had patients with a same sex partner/spouse – I treat them as I would any other couple. I have done two same-sex weddings. One at the couple’s house with a small group of friends and family, one in my church with just the couple and legal witnesses present. Interestingly enough the couple that I married in my church were from another state. They wanted to get married but were afraid that “the word would get out” and they just didn’t want to deal with all that. When I asked my pastor and the Deacons about having the wedding in our church – they looked at me like I had three heads. Well yes… why was I even asking! Each deacon said they would be happy to come to the wedding to support this couple and be their witnesses. In the end, the couple just wanted the legal number of witnesses (2) at the wedding so the chair of the deacons said she would be happy to be the needed second legal witness. When I told the couple what the church had said… they cried.

      As I stated earlier, our community just passed a “Fairness Ordinance” giving legal rights to the LGBTQ folks regarding dwellings, employment, and public accommodations. The vote was 3 in favor, 2 against. The two against said we “didn’t need” one. One woman who spoke against the Ordinance stated that she didn’t know of anyone who had been discriminated against so there was no need for the Fairness Ordinance. I wanted to ask her if she knew of anyone who had been raped or murdered. Just because she doesn’t know of anyone doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

      I am a white, heterosexual, ordained minister. While the white and straight part gives me privileges others don’t enjoy, I have had my share of “unevenness” as a women clergy. My current salary isn’t what my predecessor was making. I have been told that if men would be the spiritual leaders they are supposed to be then God wouldn’t need “you women”. As a staff person in my first church out of seminary I wasn’t allowed to go to Deacons’ meetings because they were all men (my male colleagues went). I was their “Director” of Education. I guess the point I am making is while I have no idea what it is to be a LGBTQ person – I can see a bit what it is like to be told “you’re not good enough just because God created me this way”. It sucks!

      Ok… I think I have crossed the line into rambling so I will stop. More ponderings later.
      Mary

      • #4982

        Joy Freeman
        Participant
        @jfreeman

        Mary,

         

        I agree about asking them to define their connection – I feel it gives them the control over how they want to indentify in a way that feels safe to them.  My favorite way to ask is either “who’s in the room with you today” or “How are you all connected.”

         

        Joy

      • #4987

        Mary,

        Thanks so much for your response. I appreciate that you treat same sex couples “just like any other couple.” I hear in that statement that your goal is not to single them out or make them feel different, and I am grateful for that. On the other hand, there are of course some obvious ways that these couples may need some unique support in terms of the life experience they have had and the particular needs presented to them.

        I would hope that  a community progressive enough to pass a “Fairness Ordinance” would be fairly open and responsive to minorities. And yet I also hear your own struggle as a woman in ministry having to deal with oppression and marginalization. I certainly can relate to that as well. The more ways a person falls outside the profile of the dominant culture (white, straight, male, Christian, extroverted, upper-middle-class, college educated, married, English speaking, able-bodied, etc), the harder that person has likely had to work to find success in life here in the US.

      • #4988

        I use some of those same questions, Joy, when trying to identify how people in the room are related. But then I have to accept what they say, and if they don’t feel comfortable enough with me to tell me the truth, we’re stuck in a surface-level conversation until that trust has been established.

        I’m also aware there are things chaplains can do to clue people in that they are a safe person to talk to. In the vernacular, LGBTQ people tend to have “gaydar” and often can recognize professionals who also are LGBTQ. But chaplains who are straight can wear buttons or stickers on their ID badges that immediately communicate to minority groups that they are an ally and therefore safe to confide in. Your language of inclusion and your comfort with the couple together also can help.

      • #4993

        Joy Freeman
        Participant
        @jfreeman

        Oh yes Melanie, the movement from surface to safe deeper space is so hard – even with out the layer of sexual orientation. The dynamic you describe can happen in any pt relationship that is being initiated, but when dealing with LGBTQ+ you are correct there is always the concern of getting stuck at the surface of the space.

        You raise an important part about ways for chaplains to identify themselves as an ally.  If I am honest I am struggling with how to do this. There are strong feelings on this topic in my area still, I find I encounter many who are very conservative when it comes to this topic. For a while I wore a rainbow bracelet (because that is what I had on hand at the time) that my daughter made me on her rainbow loom until the rubber bands wore out and the bracelet broke.  The bracelet I felt was the best I could do as we are strongly encouraged not to put anything on our badges at work. May be time for me to have her make me another one and I wrestling with if that is enough or if I need to take courage to buck the system and put something on my badge reel.  Processing here and I hope that is ok.

        Joy

      • #4999

        Definitely no one wrong or right way to show one’s self to be an ally. My experience is that people will know mostly by your attitude toward and comfortability with them. The external clues are a distant second, to be sure. I love the rainbow bracelet. That to me is subtle enough that most straight people would never even give it a second glance, but LGBTQ folks would instantly connect with it. I think it is similar with pins, stickers, etc. The “equal” symbol of the Human Rights Campaign is immediately recognized by the queer community, but others assume it’s “some kind of liberal icon” but have not idea what it means.

        I also want to honor that what you have described here is part of your own “coming out” process of being an ally. Like in Bert’s essay on the Kiss of Solidarity–it was scary to actually show up in public in such a public way embracing the gay culture. But what may feel like “getting political” to the straight community looks like “being an ally” to the queer community. You have the choice to go on record with your opinions on this matter, while others do not have that choice. This is of course even more pronounced in the field of race relations. When I choose to participate in a protest or direct community action as an ally to people of color, it is a choice. I can stop at any time and have no repercussions. But my friends of color never get to let their guard down, never get to stop hearing hurtful microaggressions, never get to “take a break” from being a minority. It’s not productive to compare one type of being a minority with another, since hierarchies of hurt are not helpful. But there are sometimes important parallels that we can learn from other groups.

        So I would encourage you to embrace your own “coming out” process, in whatever way that looks for you. And I get it that in very conservative places in the country it can feel very unsafe, or it may have to potential to distance you from other people who need your care as well. Still, it is an important journey worthy of your intentional steps toward being the ally that feels right for you.

      • #5003

        Joy Freeman
        Participant
        @jfreeman

        Melanie,

        I had never thought about my process being a “coming out journey” as an ally.  This is a helpful understanding.  Your graciousness here is helpful as I continue on my own journey.  Thank you for affirming the rainbow bracelet and your thoughts around that, I’m getting started on one today.

        Blessings abundant.

        Joy

      • #5005

        I’ve been very aware of my parents’ “coming out” process as they went from being as closeted as I was (ie., leaving my partner out of my grandmother’s obituary) … to gradually being able to talk to trusted friends about me and my partner … to once even placing flowers in their Baptist church in honor of their three children and three children-in-law … to my mom inviting her siblings to our commitment ceremony, and then uninviting two of them when they expressed judgment about my “choices” … to attending documentaries and training workshops to better understand their daughter … to my father actually officiating at our second (“legal”) ceremony. That sounds like “coming out” to me.  :  )

    • #4983

      Rick Underwood
      Moderator
      @RickUnderwood

      Since I read the book some time ago, I’ll share some of my reflections on Part I.

      I grew up in Jackson, Ms. and attended junior college on a track and football scholarship. My junior year I transferred to Mississippi State University to continue my football career, MSU is located in Starkville, MS., the setting for Bert’s ministry and teaching. I had the awesome privilege of preaching in his wonderful church a year or so ago and my “None” affiliated younger brother played and sang at worship on another occasion at Bert’s Church.

      The positive energy in the congregation was awesome, open and welcoming.

      As I read the reflections of the church members, I could see their faces and hear their voices. What a great witness to the community. So glad Bert allowed their voices to be heard. It was a great celebration or party and the Spirit of the Cosmic Christ was there.

      The obvious spiritual needs expressed are the need for respect and acceptance.

      More later…

       

    • #4991

      I’m so struck by this Baptist church in Mississippi that is taking such a non-traditional stand in its community! It give me hope that the church at large eventually will be able to overcome its exclusive stance. In the meantime, thank God for these brave souls.

      • #4994

        Joy Freeman
        Participant
        @jfreeman

        I too am given hope for the church by this one church’s story.

    • #4997

      Trish Matthews
      Moderator
      @TrishMatthews

      I just posted in the “week one” string, but would like to jump in here as well.  Great reflections from all of you.  I agree that some of my initial work with LGBTQ persons as a chaplain was around advanced directives.  That was years ago before marriage was legal, but it was important and significant for them to have the one person they trusted and loved be the one to speak for them legally.

      Joy – I agree about the movement from surface to deeper space.  I even still cringe when I have to mark on a doctor’s paperwork divorced rather than single!  The labels we put on people are often hurtful and difficult to get past.  Saying that, I was talking with a friend and we wondered why we even have the label LGBTQ?  Aren’t these people just people like you and me?

      Rick – I agree with others that any under-age sexual contact is concerning, especially with someone in their 40’s.  I pray courage for you to begin the conversation.

      Mary – I totally agree about being a woman clergy in the Baptist denomination.  That is probably why I am Presbyterian now!  We can all identify times when we were the alien, outcast, judged one and that can help us in connecting with our LBGTQ patients and friends.  Not that our experience is the same, but it gives us a frame of reference for what that experience feels like and allows us to empathize.

      Enjoying the conversations,

      Trish

      • #5000

        Hi Trish, you make some interesting comments about labels. Society is great at stereotyping and categorizing and labeling. And it can feel extremely limiting, especially when we are seen by society through only one label. I think Mary made a similar comment earlier in this thread about treating same-sex partners the same way one would treat a straight couple.

        On the one hand, this can be very affirming and “normalizing.”

        On the other hand, LGBTQ folks do have specific differences, needs, and identities that need to be honored. This has some parallels to saying of people of color: “I don’t see color; I treat all people the same.” That is considered dismissive and short-sighted, because there are very real differences and distinctions. I absolutely want people to treat me with respect and dignity and with a great honoring of my full humanity. But I don’t want to be treated like a straight person. I don’t want to be seen as “the same.” Partly that is because I have some pride in who I am, and it has been a long and arduous process to embrace my full humanity, which includes being gay. So sweeping it under the rug actually feels dismissive to an important part of who I am.

    • #5006

      Trish Matthews
      Moderator
      @TrishMatthews

      I appreciate what Melanie and Joy are saying about a “coming out” process.  I think that is what I was trying to say – that there is some discomfort but it does not compare to the discomfort my LGBTQ friends face and I want to be fully supportive.  Thanks!  Doing a wedding for two women was definitely a “coming out” for me at our hospital!

      Trish

    • #5007

      Mary M. Wrye
      Member
      @mmwrye

      Melanie,
      I need you to help me understand better how I might honor the specific differences, needs and identities. As a Chaplain to a variety of folks – I am continually learning how to best care for them when they are quite vulnerable. Would you help me understand what it means to you to not be treated as “the same”, and to not be dismissive of the important part of you that makes you you. I live in a small rural part of Western Kentucky. While we passed a Fairness Ordinance – it was a big deal. I honestly want to understand better… but I will never know what it is to live as a LGTBQ person. I will never know what it is to live as a black man, or a person of great wealth, or an able-bodied person, or a mother who has birthed children. But I do want to be able to be compassionate, caring, and kind when I encounter folks who are other than me.

      Thanks,
      Mary

    • #5009

      Hi Mary, I didn’t mean to say that you are not already being that compassionate, kind, and caring individual. I’m sure that you probably are doing that already, quite possibly better than I am! I was simply reacting to the statement that one should treat all people the same. I don’t want to treat people of color the same as white people, because white people have all kinds of privileges that people of color do not, and if I “skip over” that in my effort to treat everyone equally, then I have missed a very important part of that person’s life experience, which helps make all of us who we are. I sometimes worry that when I am treated “the same” as straight people, that my own life experience is assumed to be the same as theirs, and it isn’t. That could lead to my being put in very vulnerable situations, so it makes me uncomfortable.

      Maybe an example will help. I once visited a patient (and her husband) in day surgery, prior to surgery. They were known to me from church, which is a place where I felt safer to be “out” than in the hospital. In their effort to “treat me the same” and normalize my relationship and show their acceptance of me, they immediately began asking about my girlfriend at the time, in front of hospital staff that I wasn’t out to. I was immediately put on the defensive, feeling like my worlds were colliding and I had been outed without my consent.

      This may simply be a matter of semantics. I was just trying to acknowledge that we can make a distinction between treating everyone with respect and warmth and dignity, vs treating everyone the same. Because what feels like respect and warmth and dignity to some people would feel vulnerable and unsafe to others. Same as how saying “I don’t see color” when talking to a person of color totally dismisses a part of who they are.

      I hope this is a bit less clunky than my last attempt. It’s sometimes hard to communicate things in the ways we intend to!

    • #5011

      Mary M. Wrye
      Member
      @mmwrye

      Thanks Melanie. The example of the patient and husband helped me understand better what you are pointing to. I appreciate it.

    • #5013

      Trish Matthews
      Moderator
      @TrishMatthews

      It was a “coming out”as I had struggled with whether or not I would or could do an LGBTQ wedding.  Now that I am Presbyterian it was sanctioned (I am PCUSA).  I struggled with what I believed and thought, knowing full well we have many fundamentalist Christians in our hospital who might not approve.  I just finally decided that love is love and I actually felt very good about doing it.  It was fun to work with the couple and make it what they envisioned, using their language especially at the end.  I said “I now pronounce you married.  You may kiss one another.”  And then I said “I now present to you Mrs. and Mrs. and their first names.  It was what they requested, again not using the word “wife.”  Interesting that I only got positive comments as a result!

      Trish

    • #5019

      Wow, Trish. That’s great. Thank you for expanding a bit on how that wedding was a “coming out” for you. It is scary even for allies when you are anticipating negative feedback or pressure, and especially if you have your own mixed feelings and beliefs weighing in as well (which many of us do). I love that you and the couple created your own pronouncement and presentation, and that you got such positive comments!

      For me, my fears have often been worse than reality in my coming out process. I consider myself extremely fortunate in that regard. Partly I think that is because I waited a long time before I got the courage to come out, and a lot of people already had a sense that it was true of me before I actually said it. Of course, thinking something to be true and having it verified are two different things.

      And while my experiences have largely been positive, or at least restrained, I have friends whose worst fears have been realized. One of my good friends here in my town, who grew up here, was jerked up by the deacons in her Baptist church (including her father) and escorted out of the church physically, as a sign of their judgment and  “excommunication” of her. She and her life partner are now members of the church I belong to. But what terrible scars those experiences can leave.

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