How the church perpetuates the ‘gay lifestyle’

There is a simplistic view of the LGBT conversation by Christians who hold traditional views of scripture. That is to say, no matter what aspect of the multifaceted subject of LGBT lives is being discussed, inevitably, the conversation will be reduced to same-sex sex.

Why is it that no matter what facet of the multi-faceted lives of LGBT people is being discussed, traditionalist Christians inevitably reduce the conversation to same-sex sex?

It’s almost as if Christians who hold traditional views of scripture think about gay sex more than gay people do.

Conversations that have real life implications – homelessness, suicide, hate crimes, equality under the law –  get derailed to an argument over the theology on a few verses in scripture that mention sexual activity between members of the same sex.

It’s through this simple view of the LGBT conversation that a distinct set of phrases are born.

For example, a variety of phrases that mean one thing to traditional Christians who use them and a completely different thing to LGBT people – or sometimes they don’t translate at all. One of the most common phrases is “the gay lifestyle.”

The “gay lifestyle” says LGBT people are walking, talking sex acts.

The phrase only serves to make broad generalizations of a promiscuous, “worldly” life that isn’t applicable to the LGBT community as a whole, says my friend and colleague Justin Lee, director of the Gay Christian Network. He has written an exceptional post on why there is no one “gay lifestyle.” He argues that the “gay lifestyle” doesn’t include the majority of gay Christians who are just trying to find safe spaces in the church.

“Being gay just means that some of us are attracted to the same sex and not the opposite sex. Some of us respond by being celibate; some eventually find someone to fall in love and settle down with,” Justin says in his piece. “We live many different lifestyles, from monks to partiers.”

Indeed, just as any other group of people have diverse interests and lead all sorts of lives – so do LGBT people.

But I want to take it one step further. As Lee notes in his piece, there are some gay people who fit the stereotype of leading promiscuous lives. And I believe the church is influencing a system that leads many to lead that sort of life – all by sexualizing LGBT people.

It’s clearly a double standard as we don’t sexualize straight people. We don’t assume straight persons who show interest in individuals of the other sex are certainly having sex. We don’t even assume they’re having sex when they’re in relationships (because all good Christian kids wait until marriage to have sex!).

Then why is it that LGBT identities get sexualized?

Growing up in Christianity, the only time I heard the LGBT community spoken about was in condemning terms. The conversation was always “Homosexuality is a sin!” (in which the preacher equated same-sex sex with a sexual orientation).

My queerness became synonymous with sex. As a teenage virgin, my announcement of my sexual orientation was seen as a proclamation of an active sex life.

There’s significant damage being done to LGBT youth when they’re sexualized by the church. When LGBT people come out, we’re no longer seen as persons. We’re seen as “sinners” struggling against “temptation” – that temptation being sex.

LGBT persons are no more nor less sexually driven then our straight counterparts. Yet we’re the ones who are told our worth is weighed in whether or not we are sexually active.

But the narrative doesn’t end there. LGBT people get told our worth is in sex and that we’re not allowed to have it. Because that’s all that matters. The sex.

I’ve personally witnessed individuals who believe this narrative. I have seen friends who have taken that narrative at face value. I have seen people after being rejected from the Church try, unsuccessfully, to find themselves in sex.

The Church creates the stereotype of a promiscuous “gay lifestyle” by sexualizing us, pushing us out of the pews, and then by condemning us for exercising our sexuality. This cycle is broken and it’s time we found wholeness by acknowledging how our own narratives have driven people to lead damaging lives.

Meaningless sex isn’t fulfilling. It isn’t what we’re looking for. We’re looking for affirmation of our identities as queer children of God.

We allow straight people in our Church holistic understandings of their sexual identity. We must do the same for our LGBT people.