Wednesday, July 05, 2006

TEC has "Come Out"

In a recent comment, Paul Stanley offered some insightful words that I felt needed to be pulled out and discussed:

It seems to me that the whole process we are in looks, from a queer perspective, very much like coming out. The TEC has "come out" by admitting and embracing its own diversity, and it is getting mixed reactions.

Among the points of analogy (recognising that everyone's experience is different):

1. Before we come out to others, we must come out to ourselves. That often means a long period of wrestling with the bigot within. Having done that we are usually pretty anti-bigot: but we do well to remember the path we took ourselves.

2. When we come out to others, we often hope for and even expect a favourable reaction, even as we fear rejection. We want to be affirmed in our decision to be honest; but that often means admitting some measure of past dishonesty or equivocation. And the reactions we get are rarely as enthusiastic as we hope. (And in fact we know that we sometimes go a bit over the top about it when we first come out: the sense of relief is so great that we can get a bit unbalanced, and maybe make a bigger deal about it than it really warrants. That passes.)

3. The reactions we get are often mixed. There's often some disappointment ("No grandchildren!"), often some guilt ("What did we do wrong?", "Did we make you unhappy?", "Ugh, think how I gossipped about Y when he came out!"), often some fear ("Being gay isn't easy!", "Gay people are promiscuous/ drug-addicted/ unhappy/ prone to HIV infection!", "What will X say, he's always banging on about how much he hates fags"), often a sense of distance ("You are not the person I thought I knew!"), sometimes denial ("I wish you had just got on with it without telling me" "It's probably just a phase").

4. Those reactions are painful. But if we work through them they often disappear. Sadly, in a few cases, there is an irreparable breach, or a complete failure to comprehend what is going on resulting in pointless cruelty (attempts to un-gay people and so forth).

5. The reactions of those who are in fact gay themselves but are not yet ready to admit it even to themselves are likely to be especially complex and volatile.

The TEC came out to itself and to the rest of the WWAC by being prepared to do openly what every other church does secretly. That was the right thing to do, in every way. It naturally wants to be affirmed in that, to see its honesty celebrated. And in some quarters it is. But other churches are still at more or less difficult points in the coming-out process, ranging from deep denial (Nigeria) to tortured adolescent internal conflict (CoE).

Queer experience suggests that this whole process is very much emotional and visceral. It's bound to involve argument and anger and all the rest. But in the end it depends on using the bonds that hold people together to keep them together while they work through a series of deep-seated issues.
Of course this is only one factor to consider, but I think it is an important one that is often overlooked. What TEC has been struggling with for over 30 years is indeed about the "H" word...HONESTY!

One of the problems I have with the unfortunate resolution B033 is that it seems dishonest to me. It does not represent the mind of General Convention. It is a response that springs from our fear of rejection.

I think it is time to realize that we have two choices. We can choose to walk in the light, or return to the darkness. We can can press on, speaking the truth in love or we crawl back into the closet. The path in the light may be painful, and we may encounter rejection and even hatred along the way. But it is the only path for those who value honesty.

Someone else made a comment about the similarity between some of our reactions and the Alanon program. There's an important insight in this observation as well. When we continue to keep our focus on our oppressors, we allow them to keep us in the role of being victims.

Jesus taught us a way to break the cycle of violence in this world. We make peace with the victims we have created. And in so doing, we often encounter the one Pure Victim.

Let us continue to speak the truth in love. Let us be the voice for those who have none. But let us also commit ourselves to creating no new victims.

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