I've come to admire Andrew Marin (author of Love is an Orientation). He has spent considerable time listening to stories within the LGBT community. He has given the Church a great gift by giving us a glimpse into their culture. If you hang around his blog for any length of time you will see he has earned the respect of gay Christians.
One of my goals in the Sacred Friendships Project is to explore the deep connection of sexuality and friendship via the avenue of stories. Yes, this means cross-gender friendships. When I refer to friendship it is differentiated from marriage or a committed, monogamous sexual relationship. I hope to explore same gender friendships including friendships within the LGBT community. Most, if not all of us, are aware of major differences between evangelicals and the LGBT community. Marin's book reveals his intentions to reach out in friendship building bridges between evangelicals and gays. In the spirit of those who want to build bridges and listen to those who are different than me I hope that we will hear stories from gay Christians on this blog.
I believe one of the areas in which there is overlap (at least in the history of Christian spirituality) is passionate, intimate, but nonsexual friendships. I marveled for example, when I discovered the deep friendship-love story between gay director Simon Callow and Margaret Ramsay detailed in the book, Love is Where it Falls.
In my research on friendship I have come across stories of passionate but nonsexual friendships among gays while they were in committed monogamous sexual relationships. This has reminded me of innumerable friendship stories pre-Freud. I think these stories give such depth to sexuality, spirituality, friendship, and the risk of love. In deep friendship-love, just as in marital love, intimacy means so many of our walls, our defenses for self-protection from getting too close to someone else's deep beauty and embodied presence disappear.
Enter Jack's story. I am so grateful for Jack and his willingness to share about gay men, intimacy, and friendships on the Sacred Friendships Project blog. Among my many surprises in my research on friendship was the depth of intimacy in friendships among gay men.
One of the things I have learned as I have dived into research on friendship is the bold but gentle gift of authentic vulnerability. As I have come to learn vulnerability in friendship, it’s not just about revealing your inner secrets and becoming transparent about your inner world with your friend. That’s merely psychological voyeurism—something our therapeutic culture has encouraged. Vulnerability is about trust, opening oneself up, one’s body, imagination, emotions, mind, and will to the beauty and goodness of the other. It’s a relational meeting of embodied hearts in which walls are dropped and you open yourself to connecting and being changed by another.
Something I else I wish to add. There are a variety of views within the LGBT community on monogamy and committed relationships. There is no such thing as a monolithic LGBT community. There are gays within that community who will clearly differ from Jack's views. My purpose in presenting Jack’s story is to hear his experiences of nonsexual intimacy in friendship within the LGBT community. His story does include the potential of sexual intimacy beyond one committed sexual partner. I differ with Jack. But Jesus doesn’t call us to love only those neighbors we agree with. I would ask you not to miss the beauty of friendships in Jack’s story because of other issues many of you will disagree with. It is Jack’s experience of nonsexual yet deeply intimate friendships that should challenge our ideas and assumptions about what is possible, good, and beautiful.
Here is Jack's story:
In my experience as a gay man spanning across relationships and friendships, I can honestly say that coming out over 15 years ago was one of the most liberating experiences I could ever have. In addition to the fact that I was finally able to come to grips with my sexuality, it also allowed me to be vulnerable and intimate with other gay men.
Before I came out, I felt that I was somehow being limited by the WASP (white anglo saxon protesant) heterosexist view of how men could relate to each other. As soon as I came out I joined a gay rugby and softball league. I have always been an athletic guy so I wanted to be able to continue that but within the context of a gay male community.
Over the years, these guys have taught me so much about living and loving my fellow man. They helped me to break down those boundaries with respect to intimacy and love. Some of them have been my significant others while most of them have just been very close intimate friends. What I have always found interesting is that when I have some rough times in life, I could always share my struggles with these guys and more than one of them have always been willing to laugh and cry with me. Having your best buddy be there with you in those vulnerable moments--who would ultimately take you home, cook you dinner--and hold you all night.
I would say that gay men's ability to interact more intimately is connected to that fact that we do not have pre-determined social scripts that we have to play out. Acceptance and the ability to be vulnerable is more of the cultural norm between my gay male friends and I. I think also gay men come from many difficult situations where love and acceptance was conditional based on their sexual orientations. Since many of us have this "shared oppression" the result is that we know that we have to support each other. What comes out of this is the ability to let those walls down.
It's important to note that those guys who may have spent the night were not necessarily sexual--in fact in most cases, it was just a one friend taking special special care and love for another--and THAT is what I think gay men are able to do that many of straight counterparts CANNOT do. I do not believe that gay men and our relationships are highly evolved because quite honestly, there is quite a bit of judgement and backstabbing amongst us.
In terms of romantic relationships, I have had some amazing, AMAZING guys in my life-- I have learned so much about life and myself from each one of them. I am currently engaged to a wonderful man who is an iraq war veteran (airborn). The ability to share those dark moments of the war has and continues to be points along the way in our relationship that is so very sacred and special.
Recently we have considered bringing in another special guy into our relationship. While this may seem somewhat strange to heterosexuals, there has been an ever increasing shift towards triad relationships. This young man is so very special to both Tim and I and there is still a LOT of things that have to be worked out before we all agree to bring him into the relationship. It may be the case, that he remains a very close initimate friend but the beauty of being a gay man is that our love for him will not be diminished in any way. Once again, I point to our ability to operate in a very fluid paradigm of love and initimacy.
Prior to this I was in a relationship with a career military guy who died in Iraq. This relationship was so very special to me and there are still days in which I miss him terribly. Sadly, he was not out and I was not able to attend his funeral--for his family did not know of my existence. So intimacy in that relationship was great but often felt forced and difficult because we were not able fully disclose that we were together.
I guess I would close by saying that I truly believe that God's decision to make me a gay male has been a tremendous gift. Although I was not able to fully appreciate or accept it before I came out, I can say that my sexual orientation is a sign and symbol that points beyond itself--towards an understanding that life is short and that I need to take EVERY moment to live and love--and to NOT let others dictate what that needs to be for me.
I have always lived my life and as a journey that God has placed me on. In that journey, I have always sought to understand what was the other side of the equals sign for me, what was the insoluble truth for me. After finally coming out, I finally knew, I have anamnesis
(full memory) of His plan for me--love one another as I have loved you-- I think its really that simple.