It’s a question we get at least twice a week:
My grandmother/mother/neighbor/pastor doesn’t support LGBTQ people. How can I convince them?
Sometimes the question is from an LGBTQ person, other times it’s from someone working in solidarity with our community, but no matter who it’s from the question is the same: I know I believe this stuff but I have no idea how to convince anyone else that it’s true.
What’s a person to do?
When I was first coming out, I was desperate to find peace in myself around what the Bible said (and didn’t say) about LGBTQ issues. (If you’re in the place and needing support you can check out some resources here, here, and here.) I read books and I watched videos. I studied and prayed and talked to people who were farther along in their journey. And slowly, slowly I came to understand and believe that God loves me, not in spite of my queerness and transness but because of it. That my identities are gifts from God.
But how in the world could I make other people believe it, too? Especially people close to me like my family and my former church? I desperately wanted them to experience the Good News of God’s love.
I tried to share resources with them but they weren’t really interested. I tried to explain all of the things that I had learned. Sometimes that went okay, other times I tripped over my own tongue. But no matter how it went I left every conversation feeling like it had been more of an argument. That we tossed Bible verses and interpretations back and forth but nothing ever went anywhere. It was exhausting and frustrating. It felt like a waste of time.
So I decided to change my approach and it has made all of the difference.
Now, whenever I need to have a conversation with someone who is unaffirming, I simply tell my story. Seriously, that’s it. I sit down and I tell them my story.
Because you can’t argue with someone’s story.
(Okay, you can but it makes you an asshole.)
I want people to see me as a person of faith. As someone who has struggled and failed and kept on going. As someone who deeply loves Scripture and God and the church. As someone who loves people. As someone who is funny and caring. I want people to see me as a human being. Because if people can start to see me as a human being, if they can really hear my heart; my struggle, my love, my joys, then suddenly they start to think a little bit differently about things. They have a human face in front of them when they think about bathroom bills and church inclusion. If they meet me and get to know me and hear my story, suddenly they have skin in the game.
And maybe after meeting me they decide they want to know more. Then they can go and read books and study and watch documentaries. But until they have that skin in the game, until they are willing to see my humanity, all of the apologetics work in the world won’t change their minds. They have to know someone. They have to hear their story.
I don’t talk about the clobber passages anymore. Literally, never. I refuse to do that work. Do you know why? Because it’s already been done. But more than that? Because it doesn’t work. I’ve never seen someone argued into accepting LGBTQ people unless they already knew an LGBTQ person and wanted to change their minds.
Knowing someone makes all the difference. Telling our stories is one of the most effective activism tools that exists. When you can tell you story: one on one, in front of television cameras, from a stage, over coffee, on your blog suddenly things start to change. People start to change.
So tell your story and change the world.
Need some help on how to do that? We put together this post to get you started.
This article was published by Fr. Shannon Kearns
Want more encouragement & inspiration for LGBTQ Christians?
Join 6,000+ others in receiving Queer Theology articles, videos, and updates