Thursday, April 18, 2013

    Would You Be Willing to Be Gay for a Day?

    What would it be like for you to experience a day from the perspective of a gay teen?  Would you be willing to find out? If you are a gay pastor or youth leader, you already know what it's like. Everyone else: keep reading.

    This year the Day of Silence falls on Friday April 19. This is annual observance when students choose to remain silent in their schools for one day to show solidarity with LGBTQ teens who are silenced every day by being kept in the closet through intolerance and fear.  I participated in this day in seminary years ago and it was a powerful experience that even included a worship service held completely in silence.  

    Of course, the Day of Silence is not without its controversy, particularly for those who feel participating in the event might (God forbid!) send the message to gay teens that they are loved, accepted and affirmed. But wherever you place yourself within that debate, I think that blogger Kimberly Knight is really on to something when she suggests that straight persons try becoming "gay for a day": 

    What do I mean by this? Well, this is a bit of a challenge for my straight friends. Those of you with boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands or wives – for the next 24 hours, imagine that the one you love, the planet around which your heart is in orbit, is someone you can not openly acknowledge in any conversation – anywhere. When you are at work, do not talk about your boyfriend or husband. When you are at lunch, don’t mention the Friday night date you are looking forward to. When you are grabbing that mid-morning coffee, don’t talk about your weekend plans with the wife....So here it is, a challenge – be gay for a day. Really, really – I invite you to give this a try. For 24 hours beginning on the morning of Friday, April 19 live your every moment as if the people you love are just friends, roommates, strangers.... (Read the full post here.)

    Participating in what Kimberly is suggesting has nothing to do with whether or not you have problems with a person's sexual orientation. But it has everything to do with whether or not you believe that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Being willing to spend a day in the other person's shoes is a step away from treating LGBTQ teens as an "issue" and toward treating them as individual children of God.  Of course, "being gay for a day" isn't going to let you really see what like is like living in the closet anymore than sleeping on your church parking lot for one night is going to teach your teens what it is like to be homeless.  In fact, the power of both of those experiences is in helping the participant to become aware of how little they know of what life is like for the "other" and that so often we are willing to pontificate and share our absolutist opinions and beliefs about something we have no knowledge of first-hand (and in some cases never will).

    Update: You may be interested in this piece about a young blogger who dared to suggest that the Church's inflexibility on the welcoming of LGBTQ persons is causing young people to leave the Church in droves.  In response, the church camp where she would had been employed this summer promptly fired her.