Don’t Say You Love LGBTQ People – Prove It

I can’t tell you how many times over the last several years people have told me that they love me like family. They mean well, trying to fill the void of the family I lost when I came out as gay. But unfortunately, I’ve been disappointed too many times to put weight in lip service love.

Some say they wish they would have known what I was going through sooner so that they could have been there for me. Yet the next time the same situation arises, their actions are unchanged and unreflective of the love they proclaim to have.

What you need to understand is that lip service love isn’t just disappointing to LGBTQ people, it’s devastating. So many LGBTQ people (myself included) have lost everything in the face of authenticity. They’ve been kicked out of their families, left without a home for the holidays, and forgotten by those who claimed to love them unconditionally. They’ve been discriminated against in the workplace, denied a safe place to use the restroom, refused the Eucharist by their church, and dehumanized in the most painful of ways. So to give them hope of genuine connection by saying you love them but then not follow through, is the emotional equivalent of them losing their nuclear family all over again.

It is deeply painful and destructive. And it has got to change before more lives are lost to feeling invisible and believing they are unworthy of love and belonging.

That’s why your love must be more than mere words. You love must produce actions that convey to LGBTQ people that they are seen and valued just as they are.

Here are just a few practical ways to make your love loud:

Make your love loud by being a vocal ally on social media. LGBTQ people are always watching and listening for those who truly have their back. Those that mean the most to me are not the people who tell me that they “love me like family” yet are ever absent from my life. Rather, it’s the people who put everything on the line in order to stand up for what is right. It’s the pastors who take a stand for full inclusion of LGBTQ people in their church, even if it costs them their job.  It’s the friend who attends a conference with a LGBTQ loved one, just so that they can learn what it’s like to walk in their shoes. It’s the mom who fights fiercely for her LGBTQ child, even when that means being severed from her own biological family. That is a true ally. That is someone who is living out the love they proclaim.

Make your love loud by educating yourself. Read a book. Learn what is like to walk in a LGBTQ person’s shoes. Develop an inclusive theology that knows how to stand on its own two feet. Develop empathy for those who are being ostracized from their family or faith community. And develop an educated response for those who ask you why you support LGBTQ people.

Make your love loud by remembering the LGBTQ people in your life during the holidays. There is nothing more painful or more lonely than spending Thanksgiving by yourself, or being forgotten on Christmas, or never hearing the phone ring on your birthday. It’s easy to forget, yet so simple to remedy. If you have LGBTQ people in your life, write their birthday on your calendar and call them. Pick up the phone and let them hear your voice. Send them snail mail at Christmas. Invite them over for Easter. Remember them.

Make your love loud with your votes. If ever there was a time to register to vote and actually show up at the polls on voting day, it is now. Our country is perhaps more divisive than it has ever been. People are being cast aside like their lives don’t matter. If you want to show someone you love them, vote to protect their rights. I don’t think my wife has ever felt more betrayed than she did after the 2016 election when she found out that every single person in her office voted directly against protecting her basic human rights. As a gay, female, immigrant—it mattered. And it affected her so strongly that she didn’t go to work for an entire week following the election. Your votes and your voice matter. Use them to protect the dignity of those around you.

These are simple yet profound ways that you can make your love loud and prove to LGBTQ people that your love for them is real. They may not believe what they hear, but they will believe what they see. And love that is backed up with actions makes all the difference in the world.

Today I Choose to Die

ONFHf1491347112During this Lenten season, our church has talked a lot about suffering. Normally no one rejoices over studying such topics, any more than I’ve rejoiced over studying my history with shame while reading Brené Brown. It’s not easy and it often makes us uncomfortable. But for some reason I haven’t found this topic of suffering depressing the way I thought I would. Instead, I’ve found it refreshing and enlightening. The ability to talk about difficult topics such as suffering has added a dimension of rawness and richness to the community of people at our church that have been open to receiving it. It’s allowed space for authenticity where so many other churches practice facades.

This past week, our co-pastor Jenny Morgan spoke about the importance of dying before you die, as in the need to let go of certain things in our lives so that when we physically pass away, we are able to do so in peace rather than fighting our physical death out of fear.

So as we approach Good Friday and draw near to Easter, I’ve been thinking about the things in my life that I need to put to death in order to make space for fresh new things to take root in my spirit and grow.

Here’s what I’ve decided to start with…

I choose to put to death perfectionism. The need to perform and put on a good appearance in front of others doesn’t cultivate authentic connection. By letting go of perfectionism, I make room to be gentle with myself and transparent with others.

I choose to put to death prejudice. No matter how much I think I’ve learned to accept and embrace all the vast diversity in the world, I am not exempt from the subtle prejudices and judgment that so easily creep into the human heart. By intentionally letting go of prejudice, I make room to continue to learn about people who are different from me and embrace all the beautiful diversity that the world has to offer.

I choose to put to death hate, bitterness, and unforgiveness. Boy, it’s hard to let go of my desire for justice for those who have wronged me or those I love. But holding on to hate and bitterness only eats away at my soul and unforgiveness festers like a wound that refuses to heal. By letting go of these things, I am entrusting my need for justice to God and freeing up room in my soul to love more people better and deeper.

I choose to kill my need for other people’s approval. Seeking approval often causes me to put on a front and show people what I want them to see in order to fit in. I am learning that is not authentic connection. Authentic connection comes when I bring all of myself to the relationship without filtering what people see and am embraced and loved for all of me. By letting go of my need for other people’s approval, I make space for relationships that are real and connections that are built to last.

I choose to put to death my need for certainty. Clinging tightly to what I think I know has not worked out well for me in the past. Don’t get me wrong, I love the assurance of certainty. I am detail-oriented and a meticulous planner. I like to know things in advance and be able to prepare ahead of time. But the black and white/right and wrong religion I grew up in mandated certainty but provided a false sense of peace. Since then I’ve learned that there are so many things I was wrong about. By letting go of my need for certainty, I open up myself to learn and grow in the (many) things I do not know, and make space for wonder, mystery, and awe. Those three things have brought me more peace in recent years than any amount of certainty and I’ve learned to be okay with and even embrace the things that I don’t know.

Finally, I choose to put to death my need for busyness. Thanks to Brené Brown (again!) I’m learning that exhaustion does not need to be my status symbol that I’ve accomplished enough and my level of productivity does not need to define my self-worth. I need to rest in the fact that I am enough regardless of what I accomplish in a given day and be content with myself even when things still remain on my “To-Do” list when I crawl into bed. By letting go of these things, I allow space for rest, for creativity, for joy and for contentment and the belief that I am enough.

There’s more, like putting to death fear, putting to death my expectations, putting to death my need for comparison and competition, and putting to death my numbing behaviors. With the help of Brené Brown and my Deepen group at church, I am learning that a wholehearted and fulfilled life comes from believing I am enough and allowing others to see the real me. Embracing my vulnerability allows others to embrace theirs and together we build authentic community.

So parts of me have died today. But in all honesty, they are parts that never brought life to begin with. Letting go of them feels a little uncertain, but is also freeing.

This is by far not an overnight transformation. This is something I will have to work at every day. But today I choose to die to these things, so that more life and more joy and more authentic connection can be cultivated inside me giving life not only to my own soul but hopefully to those around me as well.

Because LOVE makes all the difference,
Amber