Hey! My blog is trending!
I just got an email from Tumblr that my blog is trending.
So to all my new readers out there, hello!
Let’s catch you up.
My name is Justin Lee. This is me:
Fun facts about me:
- I don’t have hair because of a genetic disorder called alopecia areata.
- I’m a geek. I’ll admit it.
- I’m a Christian. And I’m embarrassed when I see some of my fellow Christians being jerks. If you sometimes wish Christians would be nicer, keep reading this blog. We talk about that a lot here.
- I’m also gay. Growing up, I thought gay people were sinners who chose to be gay. When I realized I was gay at 18, my whole world was turned upside down. We talk about that a lot here as well. Some of my readers are LGBT or very LGBT-supportive, while others believe homosexuality is a sin. I welcome everyone to engage with me in conversation, as long as they’re willing to be kind.
- I write about funny stuff and changing the world and, basically, whatever strikes my fancy. I also do TV interviews and stuff.
- Oh, and I’m an author. I wrote a book about the gay/Christian culture war called TORN: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate. If you’re a Christian (or know a Christian) who needs help understanding gay people, I wrote this book for you.
So why is my blog trending? Well, here are a few things I wrote that have been popular.
You love gay people? That’s great. Prove it. - This is one of the most popular things I’ve written. I wrote it to my fellow Christians about how they can treat gay people better, even if they don’t necessarily approve of homosexuality. It’s been going viral in LGBT circles and in conservative Christian circles. So… that’s cool.
My mom just died. Here’s what you should say. - Ever wonder how to respond to someone who’s grieving? This is my advice.
Want to understand your gay family member? Go see Frozen. - Despite what some people say, Frozen doesn’t have a “gay agenda.” But when it first came out, I posted this about how I relate to it as a gay man, and it went viral.
Is it a choice? No. Does that matter? Absolutely. - This was popular after a big debate erupted online about whether gay people choose to be gay.
Sick of Christianity? This one’s for you. - Sometimes I get frustrated with the human side of the church. But this explains why I’m a Christian.
You love gay people? That’s great. Prove it.
When conservative Christians find out I’m gay, they almost all say the same thing: “I know gay people think Christians hate them, but I don’t. I love gay people. I may not agree with them, but I love them.”
You’d be surprised how often I hear this. Christians are constantly telling me how much they love me.
If they treat me disapprovingly, it’s because they “love the sinner and hate the sin.”
If they preach at me, they’re “speaking the truth in love.”
If they distance themselves from me, it’s because they’re showing “tough love.”
Yet they wonder why gay people don’t feel very loved.
It reminds me of a scene from the 1960s musical film My Fair Lady. Eliza Doolittle, a poor flower girl, has worked hard to overcome her Cockney accent and pass as a proper English lady, but she eventually tires of being treated as a trophy by her diction teacher and others. So when a young suitor named Freddy—who barely knows anything about her—begins to sing a song professing his love, she humorously interrupts him with a song of her own:
Words, words, words! I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through,
First from him, now from you!
Is that all you blighters can do?
Don’t talk of stars burning above;
If you’re in love, show me!
Tell me no dreams filled with desire;
If you’re on fire, show me!
“Show me,” she says. As a gay man, I feel the same way.
Do you love me? Don’t talk about it. Show me.
You know why LGBT people have such a bad impression of Christians? It’s not because of protesters with “God hates fags” signs. We know they’re extremists. It’s because of daily being dehumanized by the Christians who lecture and preach at us, treating us as issues instead of as human beings—and because of the Christians we know who stand idly by, thinking that if they’re not actively hating us, that counts as loving us.
That’s not love. Talk is cheap. Telling me your opinion on my life is easy. Real love takes more than that.
Sing me no song; read me no rhyme!
Don’t waste my time! Show me!
Don’t talk of June; don’t talk of fall;
Don’t talk at all! Show me!
Never do I ever want to hear another word.
There isn’t one I haven’t heard…
It’s true. Anything you could say, all that “speaking the truth in love,” I’ve heard it all before. So if you’re really serious when you say you love me, you’re going to have to prove it. Show me.
Not sure how? Here are some ideas.
- Support my rights. Okay, maybe we don’t agree on the definition of marriage, but can we at least agree that people shouldn’t be able to fire me or kick me out of my home just because they found out I’m gay? If you agree, help me make those legal protections a reality. If you don’t agree, it’s hard to believe you really care that much about my well-being.
- Stick up for me, even when I’m not around. Don’t let people make gay jokes or speak derisively about LGBT people. You never know who might be listening. I was, before you knew I was gay.
- Invite me to dinner. Or a party. Or a movie. Or a game night. Or to hang out at the mall. Make it something I enjoy, and don’t use it as a pretext for anything other than having a good time together.
- Take an interest in my life and relationships. Ask about the person I’m seeing, or the person I’d like to be seeing. (No need to tell me how much you disapprove.) Find out about my hobbies, favorite movies, favorite music, and other things I’m passionate about. Learn to see me as a multifaceted human being.
- Ask about my experiences as an LGBT person. Don’t comment. Just listen.
- Learn the language I use for myself, and use it. For instance, I don’t call myself “homosexual”; I call myself gay. If you call me “homosexual” in spite of my disdain for that term, it doesn’t feel very loving to me.
- Get involved in causes LGBT people care about. Join the fight against LGBT bullying in schools. Learn about the homeless LGBT youth population in your city. Volunteer at a charity serving people with AIDS. Don’t bring attention to what a good Christian you’re being; just do it because it’s the right thing to do.
- Instead of asking me to join you in settings where you’re most comfortable, look for opportunities to join me in settings where I’m most comfortable. Maybe I have a favorite coffee house, or I love to hike a local trail, or I go bowling with friends every Friday night. And hey, maybe you could get to know my friends instead of expecting me to fit in with yours.
- Be the conservative Christian in my life who doesn’t quote the Bible at me. I know; you’re worried that not expressing disapproval will make me think you approve of all my decisions. It won’t. It just shows me that you care more about me than about our differences.
Most importantly, don’t do any of these things with a hidden agenda. Do them because you love me. You said you love me, right? Okay, then. Show me.
A note: I’m now getting a lot of visits to this post from people who have never read my blog before. If this is your first time, I suggest visiting this welcome post to learn more about me and my blog before commenting. Welcome!
For more stuff like this, check out my book, TORN: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate.
Q:Since God created Adam and Eve in the beginning and told them to procreate, why would God create as you say a person with an orientation toward the same sex?
Thanks for the question! I have a couple of thoughts on this.
First, I can’t begin to speak for God; I don’t know why God does certain things or doesn’t do others. Some people say that a same-sex orientation is a gift from God, because it provides a unique perspective on the world, among other things. Others see it as a challenge, not a gift—something that’s a result of living in a fallen world. (Interestingly, if you ask members of the Deaf community why they think some people are born deaf, you’ll hear a similar spectrum of answers.)
Personally, I have no idea why gay people exist; all I know is that we do, and that we don’t choose our orientation. I can say that I’ve experienced many blessings from being gay, including the fact that I’m able to understand and speak to a lot of people who are angry with the church in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
As for procreation, I’d say that it was important for Adam and Eve to procreate when they were the only two people on the earth, but that doesn’t mean that God requires every human being to procreate. We’ve done a pretty good job of populating the earth at this point, and in fact, many of the Bible’s most important heroes either weren’t married or didn’t have children. My biggest concern is with sharing Christ’s love with the world, and if being gay helps me do that, then I’d count it a blessing.
VIDEO: TV host Michael Coren asked me if I can be gay and Christian. Here’s what happened.
First, a little background. Michael Coren is a conservative Catholic TV host in Canada. He’s known for being deliberately provocative at times, and he doesn’t shy away from controversy. He’s been called “Canada’s Bill O’Reilly” at least once, though he doesn’t see himself that way; he says he’s less polarizing than that.
But when he recently took a public stand against Uganda’s vicious new anti-gay law (and rightly so!), some of his viewers balked, saying he wasn’t being conservative enough or Christian enough, even claiming he must be secretly gay himself. (He’s not.)
So tonight he invited me on his show to continue the discussion and hear a gay Christian’s perspective. Some of my friends were nervous for me, but Michael was actually super nice, and I really enjoyed the conversation. Check it out.
Is it a choice? No. Does that matter? Absolutely.
In the 18 years since I first came out as gay, I feel like I’ve heard discussions on “Is it a choice?” about a million times.
And for 18 years, my answer has continued to be the same:
You can choose your behavior.
You cannot choose your orientation.
People can choose who to date, kiss, or sleep with. They can also choose not to do any of these things.
But people don’t choose who they’re attracted to. Many people have spent their whole lives trying not to be attracted to the same sex. That’s not a choice.
So if we define “gay” as “someone who is attracted to the same sex,” then no, being gay isn’t a choice. A gay person could choose to be celibate or choose to hide what they feel, but their orientation would still be the same.
Pretty clear, right?
But if that’s true, then why are there a few gay people out there who say they “chose” to be gay?
I’ve seen it happen from time to time; someone will write an article or make a public statement claiming that they’re “gay by choice.” And people freak out: Gay folks get angry, anti-gay folks say, “I told you so!”, and the person in question gets lots of attention for a little while.
But if it’s not a choice, why would someone say that?
Well, there are a few reasons:
1. They don’t want to be perceived as victims. For some people, saying, “I didn’t want to be this way,” sounds like there’s something wrong with being gay. They don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, so they choose a message that sounds stronger: “Hey, there’s nothing wrong with being this way! Actually, I like it! I choose it!” But what they’re really saying is that they choose to embrace their sexuality; they didn’t choose their orientation in the first place.
2. They might have had a unique experience. Some people experience “sexual fluidity” (an orientation that changes with time), or bisexuality (attraction to both sexes). They may mistakenly think this is how everyone feels, and this may actually be what they mean when they talk about “choice.” Of course, even these people didn’t choose to experience fluidity or bisexuality, because someone who isn’t bisexual can’t choose to become attracted to both sexes by force of will. (Many have tried!)
3. They’re conflating behavior and orientation. Often, it’s just a matter of confusing their terms. When you hear such a claim, look for how the person defines “gay.” If they talk about being gay in terms of sexual activity, for instance, what they’re really saying is that people can choose who they sleep with. I agree with that, but that’s not the same as choosing your orientation.
4. It’s psychology. Psychological concepts like cognitive dissonance and the illusion of control suggest that even when events are out of our control, we humans are very good at convincing ourselves that we were in control the whole time. It’s like Aesop’s fable of the sour grapes: “I can’t reach those grapes, but that’s okay, because I didn’t want those anyway. It was my choice all along.”
But imagine people making statements like these:
“I love coconut pie! And I choose to like it, because it’s delicious!”
“I don’t like coconut pie. But that was my choice, because it’s disgusting.”
What would such statements even mean? It’s easy to see how someone who loves coconut pie might believe he chose to love it, but the reality is that if he didn’t already like it to begin with, he wouldn’t have made that choice, would he? (Trust me, there are some foods I really want to love, but no matter how many times I eat them, I still hate them.)
Anyway, does it really matter if orientation is a choice?
Yes. It does matter. Here’s why.
Around the world right now, there are many people being abused, tortured, imprisoned, and even killed for being gay. A few days ago, I talked to a man whose good friend in Cameroon died earlier this month—starved to death by his family in an attempt to make him straight.
Even in America, where we have it comparatively easy, there are people contemplating suicide because they couldn’t change their orientation, and there are people who have experienced severe psychological and even physical trauma at the hands of those who believed that putting enough pressure on them could convince them to make a different “choice.”
Claiming that being gay is a choice causes two terrible harms: It convinces some straight folks to try even harder to pressure people into making a different choice (such as through Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” legislation), and it says to the gay victims of such abuse that they could have “chosen” not to experience that abuse at any time by just “choosing” not to be gay.
This is wrong. It’s dangerous. It’s deadly.
And it’s just not true.
Yes, if you’re an openly gay man in New York City, I understand that you don’t want people to see you as a victim or to give you equality just because you “can’t help” being gay. I get that. But claiming that being gay is a choice is not the way to solve that problem.
So let me say this one more time.
Yes, you can choose how you live—who you have sex with, who you date, what you wear, where you go, and whether to tell anyone the truth about what you feel inside. You could choose to marry or sleep with someone you’re not even attracted to. Many people do.
But no, you can’t choose your orientation—the unchosen attractions we each have deep down inside. If you doubt that, just read the stories of people who spent their whole lives trying to change.
Because getting this right matters, and getting it wrong could quite literally cost people their lives.
Did I mention the awesome conference happening next month?
Every year, the Gay Christian Network puts together a big conference of Christians who care about LGBT people. This year’s theme is "Live It Out," and guess who’s going to be there!
Author/blogger Rachel Held Evans will be keynoting.
So will Rev. Dr. Christine Wiley, pastor at the first black Baptist congregation in DC to call an equal husband/wife pastoral team.
And Rob and Linda Robertson, whose powerful story “Just Because He Breathes,” about their gay son, was a viral hit on Huffington Post this year.
Did I mention the concert by popular singer/songwriter Derek Webb, formerly of Caedmon’s Call?
That doesn’t even count more music by Bobby Jo Valentine, a women’s retreat featuring Rev. Audrey Connor, workshops by a bunch of amazing people, powerful worship, fellowship opportunities, and more. Oh, and I’ll be there also.
This year will be our biggest conference yet, January 9-12, 2014, in Chicago. The current online registration rate ends December 15, so if you think you, your family, your church, and/or your friends might like to go and meet all these awesome people, head to the GCN conference website now to register!
Last year, I traveled to 20 American colleges as part of a speaking tour for the Gay Christian Network. We decided to take the opportunity to ask students some questions about their views, and what we found was pretty incredible.
Here are the results. Get ready to be shocked.
Folks, this is why I do the work I do. And this is why, as I show in my book, it’s so important for us to have these conversations.
Questions from Christians #6: “Shouldn’t your identity be in Christ, not your sexuality?”
Part 6 in my series of questions Christians ask about gay people.
I talk to a lot of Christians about LGBT issues, and I always encourage them to ask the questions they’ve been afraid to ask. One of the most common is this one:
"Why do gay people make their sexuality the core of their identity?"
Um, we don’t. At least, most of us don’t.
In my experience, it’s usually other people who make the biggest deal out of our sexuality.
One of the reasons many gay people prefer to be called “gay” rather than “homosexual” is that the term “homosexual” seems to focus unnecessarily on our sexuality, as if being gay were all about sex. (This is exactly why some anti-gay groups like to use that term so much, which just makes us dislike it all the more.)
As a gay man, I don’t want to be defined by my sexuality. But I keep getting this question anyway from people who insist that if I describe myself as gay, my identity must be in my sexuality—and not in Christ.
So let’s clear up three myths on this subject.
Myth #1: If your identity is in Christ, you shouldn’t describe yourself with any other label.
"You shouldn’t call yourself gay," a friend once said to me. "You should just say that you’re a Christian, and nothing else. I don’t call myself a straight Christian, or a white Christian, or a male Christian…"
But wait a second—if I asked that same friend “Are you straight?” or “Are you white?” or “Are you male?”, he would surely say “yes.” We all use many different adjectives to describe ourselves, and that doesn’t mean our identities aren’t still in Christ. People are complex.
I do agree with him on one point, though: There’s no such thing as a gaychristian, some scary, one-word mythical being distinct from regular Christians.
I’m not a gaychristian. I’m a Christian who also happens to be gay.
Myth #2: If your identity is in Christ, you shouldn’t talk about the things that make you different.
So what about my friend’s other point? He doesn’t go out of his way to call himself a “male Christian” or a “white Christian,” so why do I need to bring up the fact that I’m gay?
I know where he’s coming from. As a white guy in America, I hardly ever think about my race. It almost never comes up in conversation. But if I walk into a crowded room and I’m the only white person there, I suddenly become very aware of my race. Similarly, I don’t think much about being male—until I find myself in a group where everyone else is female.
When you’re in the minority, you think and talk about the things that make you different. That’s not a bad thing; it’s actually really great for the broader Body of Christ, because it lets other Christians hear new perspectives.
It also gives you a chance to connect with others in the same boat, which is important. I can’t imagine anyone telling a Christian women’s group that their identities aren’t in Christ because they talk about their gender.
Myth #3: If there’s any example of gay people obsessing over their sexuality, that means all gay people do, all the time.
I know, everyone’s got a counterexample:
"I’ve seen the way gay people act in pride parades! Gay people are all about sex!"
"I have a gay friend who talks about sex nonstop! Gay people are all about sex!"
But it’s never that simple, and gay people, like straight people, are very different from one another. It’s easy to stereotype a whole group based on one person or event, but as I wrote before, hypersexualized pride parade images don’t represent the average gay person’s life any more than Mardi Gras represents the average straight person’s life.
Gay people’s lives are multifaceted, just like straight people’s. I’m a Christian. An American. A writer. A speaker. A Southerner. An evangelical. I go grocery shopping, watch TV, read the Bible, chat with my siblings, play games with my friends, listen to music. I’m human, and a sexual being, no more and no less than my straight Christian friends. My life is interesting, and it’s boring. Most of it has nothing to do with being gay, and even the gay stuff has very little to do with my sexuality.
I’m all of these things… and my identity is still in Christ.
(By the way, it’s National Coming Out Day! Why do I need to come out as gay at all? I covered that here.)
Questions from Christians #5: “Isn’t calling yourself a gay Christian like calling yourself an adulterous Christian?”
Part 5 in my series of questions Christians ask about gay people.
An open letter to Christians everywhere about the “adulterous Christian” analogy.
Dear Christians of the world:
Please, please, please don’t use this analogy. I know what you mean, but this one really ticks gay people off, and it gets you nowhere.
First of all, there is a huge difference between a loving, monogamous relationship—gay or straight—and adultery. One of them is two people selflessly promising love and faithfulness to one another; the other is the breaking of that vow through cheating. Even if you believe that gay relationships are inherently sinful, it’s not a fair comparison.
For “Side A" gay Christians in committed relationships, the analogy itself comes across as offensive. How many straight people would be happy to have their marriages compared to cheating?
I get it, though. People who ask this aren’t saying gay relationships and adultery are the same thing; they just believe both are sinful, and they’re asking why Christians would identify themselves with a sin.
But here’s the thing: Even celibate, “Side B" gay Christians like Ron Belgau and Wesley Hill—who both believe acting on their same-sex attractions would be sinful—still refer to themselves as gay Christians. So why do they do it?
Because there’s another big difference between adultery and being gay.
Adultery is an act. It’s something a person does: cheating on their spouse. But being gay isn’t an act. It’s what you feel, not what you do. A gay person can be celibate or promiscuous, but they’re still gay.
You commit adultery. You can’t commit “gay.”
At most, you could say that gay and straight people have different sets of temptations. (I have never in my life been tempted to lust after a woman. Straight guys can’t say that.) This is very different from calling yourself an “adulterous Christian,” which would suggest that you’re cheating on your spouse.
So, my fellow Christians, please help me educate our brothers and sisters so that I don’t have to keep answering this question for the rest of my life. With your help, someday I can introduce myself at church without having it turn into a 3-hour conversation about adultery. And that would make me so, so, so happy.
Your non-adulterous, Jesus-loving, Clue-playing, musical-humming, gay-and-shockingly-boring brother in Christ,
P.S. I apologize to all of my fellow grammar geeks out there who noticed the missing period in one of the gifs and couldn’t concentrate on anything I said after that. I promise to make it up to you somehow. Someday.