The following is the sixth installment of the “Out of the Closet and Into the Pews” series. The series features members of The Reformation Project’s Inaugural Conference -a leadership conference for 50 straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians who are committed to reform.
If I Weren’t Gay…
by Timothy Rhyker Benavidez (BEA guest writer)
If I weren’t gay, my life would not be the same as it is today. In fact, my life would be quite different. You see, a person’s orientation affects much more about his or her life than just their sexuality. My sexual orientation has always been a lens through which I see the world. Fortunately or unfortunately, it has also been a lens through which the world sees me.
If I weren’t gay, I may not have had my masculinity questioned ever since I was as young as I can remember. I would not have come home crying from the playground simply because another boy deemed the name Rhyker to be feminine. My family members would not have needed to promise that they would give me $20 if I touched the basketball even once during a basketball game.
If I weren’t gay, I would never have had to contend with the constant barrage of messages that a kid absorbs from society concerning homosexuality. I would never have batted an eye when my classmates constantly used the phrase “That’s so gay” to refer to something derogatorily. I would never have thought twice when I was taught during sexual education that being gay meant that you would die young due to all sorts of diseases. I would never have questioned the importance of “protecting traditional marriage” from those who wished to destroy it.
If I weren’t gay, I would never have done all that I could to try and live a “straight lifestyle.” I would never have rushed to date my best female friend from high school in order to try to prove to myself that my orientation was not comprised of feelings inside me, but rather of actions that I could perform. I would never have had to break up with her because I needed to be more authentic to myself. I would not still to this day regret the pain that I caused her. I am sorry.
If I weren’t gay, I would have never internalized the message that an integral part of who I am was inherently sinful. I would never have had to feel ashamed that who I am was something that needed to be hidden. I would have been able to live authentically, without people questioning whether simply living my life was actually me making a political statement. I would never have felt like an outcast in church.
If I weren’t gay, I would never have questioned my salvation so seriously. I would not have pleaded with God to remove my feelings so that I could live my life in a way that was pleasing to Him. I would never have spent countless hours consciously and unconsciously wrestling with the eternal questions of salvation, and whether I would be condemned to an eternal torment in hell.
You see, a person’s orientation affects much more about his or her life than just their sexuality.
As a Christian, my orientation has affected my faith in more profound ways than it has my sexuality. If I weren’t gay, I would never have had to study the Bible as seriously. I would not have needed to wrestle with what the Bible says, rather than simply accepting the teachings that I received from the pulpit. I would not have sought out the truth in scripture for myself, as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11).
If I weren’t gay, I would never have met many wonderful people in the LGBT community. I would never have hung out with the outcasts of society, whom Jesus included in his circle of friends (Matthew 9:11-12).
If I weren’t gay, I would never have experienced what it truly means to be considered “the least of these.” Thankfully, the God I serve is most concerned with how “the least of these” are treated by society (Matthew 25:40).
If I weren’t gay, I would not understand the pervasiveness of worldly structures of power which systematically work to oppress those who aren’t privileged enough to be in control. I would never have understood just how important it is that we “loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6-7).
If I weren’t gay, I may never have understood the upside-down message of the gospel, in which an all-powerful God displayed His love in sacrifice. I would not be as joyful to realize that God uses the weak to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
If I weren’t gay, I would never have been told that any expression of love that I could make towards a partner was inherently sinful. Thankfully, I am convicted that I should never let what I know to be good to be spoken of as evil (Romans 14:16).
If I weren’t gay, I would never have understood just how important it is to erase the divisions that humans set up in society. The distinctions of Jew and Greek, slave and free, and male and female are not important to the God who does not show favoritism (Galatians 3:28 and Romans 2:11).
If I weren’t gay, I would never have understood how truly revolutionary Jesus’ message was in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). I now know that it is not a Christian response to be silent or to ignore the countless acts of bullying that are perpetuated against LGBT youth every day.
If I weren’t gay, I would not have understood the importance of the apostle Paul’s own struggles, when he asked God three times to remove the thorn in his flesh. God responded, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). If God’s grace is sufficient for Paul, the worst of all sinners, then it is certainly sufficient for the LGBT community!
If I weren’t gay, I would never have understood the significance of the debate surrounding circumcision in the early church. Are we still under the everlasting covenant of circumcision as outlined in Genesis? May it never be! For we know that those who try to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ (Galatians 5:2-4). Even Abraham was justified because of his faith, not his works (Romans 4:1-5).
If I weren’t gay, I would never have understood the emptiness of any doctrine which instills fear. For we know that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). I also would never have known that God looks at the heart, and does not concern himself with the outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7). Thus, I trust He sees the love that springs forth from LGBT relationships.
If I weren’t gay, I would not have understood that God pours out his Holy Spirit on even those whom the religious leaders deem to be the most sinful. I would never have realized how important it was for Peter and those “inside” of God’s grace to interact with those supposedly “outside” of God’s grace. In so doing, they realized the truth of a God who works even on the margins to bring about His glory (Acts 10:44-48). If only the church today were willing to be in fellowship with the LGBT community.
If I weren’t gay, I would never have had the opportunity to be a part of the community of believers in The Reformation Project. I would not be a part of this motley crew of misfits and outcasts, each person using his or her Spirit-distributed gifts to further the Kingdom of God.
If I weren’t gay, I would never have understood that God’s loves me exactly as I am. He does not require me to change for Him, as He already accepts me (1 Corinthians 7:17-20). Thus, I now know that I can embrace myself fully.
If I weren’t gay, quite simply, I would not be myself.
With confidence in God’s unconditional love, I can proudly proclaim this truth: I did not choose to be gay, I was chosen.
Timothy Rhyker Benavidez is a Resident Adviser at the University of Oklahoma. He is pursuing degrees in Chemistry and Mathematics with minors in Religious Studies, Classical Greek, and Women’s and Gender Studies. Rhyker is also on the LGBTQ Program Advisory Board at his school. As a Latino gay Christian, he is personally aware of how marginalization and oppression intersect all social identities. He is a non-denominational Protestant and hopes to help make the church more welcoming.
The opinions expressed above are those of the guest writer and do not necessarily state or reflect the views of Brown-Eyed Amazon. Publication on this website should not be considered an endorsement.