If They Knew How to Bridge This Gap with Me - Michael: Outspoken


(Spectrumbot) #1

By now, for those who pay attention to LGBT+ stories from within the Seventh-day Adventist community, it is a familiar narrative: young person grows up in traditional, rural Adventist home; young person is raised knowing that homosexuality is wrong; young person realizes (s)he identifies as homosexual; young person tries to be straight, agonizes over same-gender attractions, fears that people will find out, prays for feelings to be taken away; prayer does not change things; and young person (now a bit older) comes to terms with and accepts their sexual identity. Tension remains between young person and the family members who have difficulty coming to terms with non-hetero identities.

And of course, as is the case for Michael, the subject of the 7th installment of the "Outspoken" documentary series, there is always more to the story. There are feelings of isolation, of not being heard or understood, and feelings of being disconnected from family and the faith community that cannot or will not embrace LGBT+ people.

In addition to all that for Michael, there was—there is—partnership: a committed relationship with Peter that began with the online dating app OKCupid. Michael lights up as he discusses finding someone with whom he fits so well.

Peter (left) and Michael in a still image from the latest installment of "Outspoken."

“That feels very surreal but very good,” Michael says. But there is also a bitter to that moment’s sweet.

“I don’t know if my parents can fully appreciate how happy I am now because I don’t know if they fully understand how sad I was…and sometimes I still am,” Michael says.

“I know that if they knew how to bridge this gap with me, I know that they would do it in an instant… Adventism is such a core thing for them and who they are.”

We’re left wondering whether Michael’s family—and whether the families of so many others like him—will ever be able to accept and embrace this part of their child.

In just sixteen minutes, filmmakers Daneen Akers and Stephen Eyer manage to fill up our eyes with stars and with tears in turn.

That is the power of story...of Michael’s story.

Watch Michael: Outspoken

Jared Wright is a News Correspondent for Spectrummagazine.org.

If you respond to this article, please:

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8394

(Daneen Akers) #2

Michael is one of those people whose depth, grace, and gentle spirit reminds me of what I aspire to. It was truly an honor to be able to share part of his story. May we all keep trying to bridge the gaps that divide because we are, as Michael says, better together.


(Pagophilus) #3

So is using a dating app such as OKCupid in line with the biblical model of how to find a partner for life?


(Thomas J Zwemer) #4

there is no right answer except celibate life


(rodney smith) #5

Spectrum, I would really like to know your position on same sex relationships. Is it your feeling that Adventism should accept it ? I would hope that you would allow other opinions on this site , without feeling that you are being attacked .


(Johnny Carson) #6

Absolutely, just as appropriate as using any other means of finding a life partner, including going to church or to Adventist academies or to campmeeting.

There is no right answer except celibate life for you because that is your current understanding of God’s plan for your life. You cannot expect to apply your own experiences, walk, and understanding of God, or your understanding of scriptures to everyone as a blanket understanding that all must abide by. You were never given that authority.


(Website Editor) #7

@rodneybda I’m happy to give you the same answer I did on May 10, 2017, when you asked this same question on an article about another Outspoken video. Here it is:

Spectrum is an organization made up of a diverse group of people, with a range of beliefs on a number of topics. So, when you ask what Spectrum’s “position” is, you are either asking for the opinion of each individual behind Spectrum (and to answer that you should ask each individual personally), or you are asking what Spectrum’s goal is with the stories we publish. To answer the latter, I would suggest you take a look at our “About Us” page where you can read our mission statement. I’ve included the first paragraph here for you:

Our goal is to foster community through conversation. This website is the online companion to Spectrum, a journal established to encourage Seventh-day Adventist participation in the discussion of contemporary issues from a Christian viewpoint, to look without prejudice at all sides of a subject, to evaluate the merits of diverse views, and to foster intellectual and cultural growth.

As for other opinions and comment deletion, our moderators reserve the right to remove any comment that does not adhere to our commenting policy. Diverse beliefs and opinions are welcome if they can be communicated in a respectful manner; disrespect, animosity, and malice are not tolerated. You will see above yours are several comments on the topic of same-sex marriage/relationships that express a range of views.

We appreciate the dialogue that commenters who can adhere to the commenting guidelines bring to the Spectrum community. Thank you for being part of that discussion.


(Carolyn Parsons) #10

Michael’s story reveals the insidiousness of negative messages about LGBTQ+ people. Though he never experienced direct preaching about the subject his culture was imbued with messages that made him feel less than his peers. You don’t need confront and LGBTQ+ person directly, the culture does it for you. You can sit back and let it happen, because it will. It takes action to make the situation right.

We should feel uncomfortable about how young people take in negative messages, they might just find a sensitive young person with self doubts and grow into self loathing and worse.


(ROBIN VANDERMOLEN) #14

TENSIONS ARISE BETWEEN LGBT YOUNG PEOPLE AND FAMILY MEMBERS
WHO HAVE DIFFICULTY COMING TO TERMS WITH NON HETERO IDENTITIES.

How excruciatingly egregious that Michael’s parents would not exult, be ecstatic, when he found a loving, compatible life partner.

Over my eighty plus years, I have observed multiple pastors / church administrators who, when losing a wife in their later years, are re-married within a short period of time.

They cannot abide the acute loneliness and loss of a soul mate, and are not getting re-married for the sex, because most are beyond the “viagra age “.

This proves that while sex is important in a marriage, more significant is the support, companionship, nurturing, sharing, affirmation and emotional nourishment that a good partner provides.

If we do not deny this blessing to our elderly widowers, why would we deny it to our gay offspring? Those in loving relationships have much longer longevity than those isolated and alone.

Adventist LGBT offspring ( our children —demographically one in 20/25—-
which means if you have three or four kids, your chances of being a parent to a gay child, go up ) are culturally “contaminated “ with demeaning, denouncing,
demonizing, discriminating, comments about gays,

These attitudes/comments are prolific in Adventist congregations, academies, colleges, and families.

This hostile, hateful, venomous, virulent environment is damaging and deleterious to healthy maturation from adolescence to adulthood.

It is TOXIC to good mental health and appropriate feelings of self worth and self esteem.

That is why I have long advocated that our LGBT youth should be removed from the hostile environments so prevalent on our academy and college campuses.

They would be better served by a cheaper, closer, more affirming public high school / community college / university with in-state-tuition.

Not only would they avoid student debt, but they would maintain their dignity, sanity and self esteem.

LGBT teenagers in an accepting ATHEIST family have a much lower suicide rate than those unfortunate enough to be in a rejecting Adventist family.

Our entire denomination has much work to do to BRIDGE THIS GAP.

The UNITED METHODIST CHURCH currently has a world wide commission named THE WAY FORWARD,
studying how to make their church more inclusive, loving and accepting of their gay/lesbian/transgender offspring. Even their African members are moving towards more positive nurturing of their LGBT youth.

Reply to A Shepherd,

Your blog post emphatically endorses my blog statement encouraging Adventist LGBT young people to distance themselves from Adventists like you.

These gay offspring of ours have ZERO input in choosing their sexual orientation. NEITHER DID YOU.

Neither do families /parents have any choice in having a gay /lesbian child.

Maybe if YOUR favorite child / grandchild /niece /nephew were gay,
you would have more understanding. You probably already have such a relative but with your attitudes these unfortunate kin have deliberately chosen not to tell you.
You state:
“The gentleman Michael has found is unlikely to be a “life partner “

Although all four of my heterosexual
married children remain undivorced after many years of marriage, I have NUMEROUS other heterosexual relatives who have been divorced, and many of them, several times over. Not to mention many divorcees in my Adventist congregation. So your statement is unkind and ill advised !

Allen Shepherd,
You further state :
Michael and his partner do not appear to be married to,each other,.

Really?
Just mere days ago, during the Australian vote to consider same sex marriage, the Australian SDA church, was actively campaigning against same sex marriage, in a religious liberty fiasco, whereby they were trying to LEGALLY impose Adventist beliefs on those of other faiths and those with no faith.

On the one hand people like you, opppse same sex marriage, and then in the next breath, make snide comments that two guys are not “married “. but “living together.”

YOU CANNOT HAVE IT BOTH WAYS.

At eighty two years old, I am aware that many of my fellow church members’ grandchildren are openly living together. Some of my church peers, matter-of -factly, and unashamedly tell me of out of wedlock births among family members.
.
While I do not endorse these matters, I never see one whisper about these heterosexual sins in sites like FULCRUM 7 and Advindicate. How come?
Can you document your diatribes, Allen Shepherd, denouncing these heterosexual sins ??

Those bloggers are so pathologically consumed with gay sex, despite the fact that our gay members are a minuscule fraction of the SDA demographic, since most LGBT adolescents exit the church at the earliest opportunity ( and for good reason ).
THE SHUNNING, SHAMING, STIGMATIZING, AND SMEARING OF LGBT young people, ( plus their suicides ) SURELY SHRINKS THEIR POPULATION OF ACTIVE PARTICIPANTS TO LESS THAN ONE PER CENT JOF THE CHURCH’S DEMOGRAPHIC.
(in those over twenty five ).

As Shakespeare so astutely and aptly observed:

METHINKS THOU DOST PROTEST TOO MUCH

IN OTHER WORDS, IS THIS ODIOUS, OVERWHELMING OBSESSION WITH GAY SEX, TO THE EXCLUSION OF ALL OTHER SINS,
A COVER FOR THEIR OWN PERCEIVED BUT CLOSETED HOMOSEXUALITY ??

GOOD,QUESTION !!


(Allen Shepherd) #15

Egregious? Your rants do not help.

I just posted on another site that men who have sex with men have a 44 times greater chance of getting HIV than straights. Forty-four times! Did you get that? If your boy was exposed to that risk by his behavior, would you not have just a wee problem “exulting”? That besides the social issues and other health issues. And besides that, the gentlemen that Michael has found is really unlikely to be a “life partner”.

Robin, you are supportive of gay behavior. Fine. But your judgmental attitude toward those who disagree is akin to those you condemn. Come on, this is not such a straight forward clear as a bell issue as you make it out to be.

Are there downsides to being gay? Yes, pretty large ones. Society and “ATHEISTS” etc., accept it, but that does not make it without difficulty or risk. So, some may reject it as an appropriate way to live. That does not make them the devil incarnate, as you seem to indicate. How about a bit of understanding with a difficult problem rather than contempt?

You cannot prove this with any statistics I know of. Orientation is not on death certificates, much less religion. So how would you support such a claim? Such statements by you show your utter bias.

Reply to Robin:

Wait a minute. You called the reaction of the parent of Michael “excruciatingly egregious” for not supporting him. That is not exactly what I would call supportive of them. I was calling for a more understanding attitude. You also said the environment of such parents is

:[quote=“ezbord, post:14, topic:14857”]
… hostile, hateful, venomous, virulent (and) damaging and deleterious to healthy maturation from adolescence to adulthood.
[/quote]

So, you blame the parents and others for all the problems, when to follow your gay inclinations might lead to problems, some of which I have noted. Again, not so straight forward. .

I think a bit more balance would be more reasonable. I have nothing more to say

Well, I guess I do have something to say, sorry:

In answer to Alicia, here is a quote from the Wiki entry on gay suicide rates.

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention notes that there is no national data (for the U.S.) regarding suicidal ideation or suicide rates among the LGBT population as a whole or in part, for LGBT youth or LGBT seniors, for example.[17] In part because there is no agreed percentage of the national population that is LGBTQ, or even identifies as LGBTQ, also death certificates do not include sexuality information.[9] A 1986 study noted that previous large scale studies of completed suicides did not “consider sexual orientation in their data analyses”.[18]

Second, the rate you quote for gay suicide attempts of 8.4 times more likely to commit suicide from a rejecting family is from a retrospective study. These are not as accurate as prospective studies, and bias can enter into such studies. The actual rate of gay youth suicide is not known, as noted by the quote above. I am not sure that gay youth are even more likely to attempt suicide. At least there is not a known increase RATE of suicide among them, as orientation is not on death certificates.

Could you be right? Yes. But no statistics show that yet.

I did not quote the stats noted to try to reduce HIV transmission rates. It is from the CDC, you can look it up. I was just stating a fact. You write a long paragraph about this, but all your comments do not really address the reality.

Where do you get this? Sure two men could marry and have sex and be committed. I don’t deny that at all. And I am not threatened. You look too much through your tinted glasses to know my thinking. Michael does not appear to be married to his partner. Are parents of hetro youth happy when their children move in together without marriage? We all know that such arrangements are much less enduring, and more prone to pain. So why rejoice when it happens to gay youth?

WebEd. I am sorry for this long addition. But she says quite a bit that cannot be really substantiated. Thanks… Allen


(Alicia Johnston) #18

Hi Allen,

First of all, I’d love to see this research of yours that says that being in an accepting atheist family is no better than a rejecting Adventist one in terms of suicide rates. You seem quite confident. The subject has been well researched and everything I’ve read supports the assertion that rejecting religious families increase suicide risks by 8.4 times, and even families who are kindly rejecting double suicide rates. That’s besides the numerous testimonies you will hear from LGBT people themselves, if you place any stock in our stories and accounts of what it’s like to live our own lives. Here are some relevant statistics, if you want the references you can check my website, which is just may name, and the blog post on the violence of heartless theology. Or you could just try google. The research is everywhere. I’d highly recommend the Family Acceptance Project.

  • Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers
  • If their family rejects their sexuality, for example because of non-affirming theology, they are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide
  • LGBT youth represent about 7% of the population, but they make up about 40% of the homeless population, often because they are kicked out of their homes or highly rejected by parents
  • Conversion therapy which seeks to change sexual orientation causes harm and doesn’t work
  • Even the flagship Evangelical organization for conversion therapy closed its doors in 2013 and apologized
  • Legal recognition of same-sex marriage which is opposed by traditionalists reduces suicide rates among LGBT teens by 7%

At any rate, there is a lot of research out there that goes directly against your statement. Condemning religious environments have led to a mental health crisis among LGBT people. That’s why exbord is so upset, because these are hurting children who are being ignored. It’s not on par with adult religious people being offended. It’s a serious problem that the church doesn’t want to address.

As far as HIV rates among gay men, that’s interesting. So is the transmission of HIV or other STDs supposed to be the only factor? Here’s a few implications of that: (1) women should not have sex with men unless absolutely necessary to have children (which it isn’t these days). Women who have sex are much less likely to transmit STDs to each other, so by your logic that reasoning is supportive of women in relationships with women. (2) Men are gay. The question is not whether they should be gay, but what they should do since they are gay. Being a gay man who chooses a life partner, or even one who has sex carefully and openly is a safer route than marrying a woman. There are way too many stories of gay men who married women and ended up secretly cheating on them. It’s also true that sexuality becomes more risky when it is secretive and shameful, like a person who has been made by religious institutions to deny their sexuality. I believe you are being disingenuous in indicating that your goal is to reduce HIV transmission. I think you’re just looking for ways to stigmatize LGB people.

Sometimes I wonder what the LGBT community would be like without the sexual stigma and shame that’s been placed on them by religious people claiming to love them. There is a lot of pain in our community, but also a lot of resilience, and a lot of loving committed relationships.

I’m very saddened that you don’t seem to be concerned with the lives of LGBT people in a genuine way. You say you are because of HIV rates, but being a gay man does not mean you need to make risky sexual behaviors. Especially now that we have marriage equality and there is more knowledge and support for monogamy as well as safe sexual practices, knowing there is a risk does not mean there is no way to mitigate it. Also, if you were really concerned with the lives of LGBT people, why not be concerned with the bigotry in the church? We all know it’s there. Why not work on addressing it? Why not some introspection on the impact of homophobia, family rejection, bullying, assault, etc. that LGBT kids live with? Instead you are perpetuating dangerous stereotypes and ignoring a well-documented mental health crisis.

Here’s the best evidence for your bias: You refuse to admit that two men who married each other are committed to each other. It’s to threatening to you, so you attack them. The reality of their love doesn’t fit your bias, so you deny it. But their love is real, and it’s strong enough to stand against all the hate and bigotry in the world. They are beautiful souls.

Sincerely,

Alicia Johnston


(jeremy) #19

i think michael is a sympathetic character in this vimeo…he is making the decision to go against the way he was raised for the sake of the truth he feels within…this decision wasn’t made on the spur of the moment, but has likely been yrs in the making…it takes extraordinary integrity and courage to do this…michael is quite poised in this presentation, but it is likely that he has gone through an agonizing time, beset with many and lingering self-doubts…the bottom line for him is that he sees no way to reconcile his orientation with the subliminal messages he’s been raised with…and he feels no connection to church teachings that don’t seem to describe his situation…

one thing i note is that michael seems to be relatively new at living on his own…the townhome/condo/apartment, the toyota prius, the recent coffee drinking and even the middle finger ring suggest to me he’s relatively fresh out of college, and has been living independently from his parents and the church for only a few yrs…it is possible that peter is one of just a handful of people michael has seriously dated…i think his reference to the adventist church in terms of “they”, considering his background, is telling…i think it means he still considers himself an adventist, but isn’t thinking about it for now…one thing i’ve seen over and over again is that people raised in careful, religious surroundings, and where there is genuine love between parent and child, often return to their roots in time…i’m not so sure michael has really broken with his east texas adventist upbringing…the good news is there is still an evident bond between him and his parents…it will be interesting to see what michael thinks, but more especially how he feels, once a little more water has passed under his bridge…

it isn’t everyone who has this gift, tom…but i think one thing our church can explore on behalf of our singles who don’t have the gift of celibacy, but aren’t interested in or suited for marriage, is the idea of intentional communities, or even ecovillages, especially in the ghettos of some of our university and larger church communities…of course, singles with access to resources, possibly from our conferences, can initiate these things for themselves, as well…there’s no reason why pairs or groups of compatible singles can’t share living arrangements, finances and a general future together…paired individuals may even opt for marriage licenses for tax and other benefits…

i think this is why the andrews initiative with Haven is so potentially valuable…i’m sure andrews will be able to recruit qualified professionals who can instill dignity and self-worth in its LGBT students in an adventist context…ideally, of course, our local churches should also be contributing to this effort…


(Brian Hull) #21

Hi Alicia,

I appreciate what you have written but I would respectively disagree on 1 point with most people on this topic.

  1. 2 same sex couples I don’t doubt can have a sincere and loving relationship no different to a heterosexual couple and I could understand why the suicide rate/homeless etc may be higher.

  2. But what does the bible say? We as Adventist have a duty to call people out of all sin irrespective of what sin they are participating in.

Galatians 5:19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

If we love God we will submit ourselves to God and as Sis White has said in the Desire of Ages, the same power that was available to Jesus when here was here on earth, is available to us today, otherwise he had an advantage over us and we are doomed forever.

What relationship did God create in the Garden of Eden?

We need to seek God regardless of what sin has a hold on us.

At no stage are we to neglect people because of their sexual orientation, but like Christ, show them the love of Christ. We need to reach out to them in love and with empathy. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom 3:23


(Adventist Australia) #24

So if we follow the logic through…then what of a bloke I know who is in love with his sister and she with him? Do we just say, “love is love”? Isnt there a line at which we must draw a conclusion about feelings and how they can betray us? Does it make a thing true because I feel it?

And while I have this “one” window of opportunity to comment, can someone explain why the “one comment policy” is not enforced on others here? I have been banned for months because I innocently breached this policy but I see regular progressive posters do this all the time without punishment? I was told if the poster is directly engaged by the author then they can comment twice but I see none of that here?


(Elmer Cupino) #25

This is the crux of the matter which ironically has nothing to do with sexual orientation but everything with parenting. Every parent is given the God-given capacity to “accept and embrace.” The problem lies with our ability to “accept and embrace” which is influenced and affected by subscribing to “bad religion” which puts a limit to our ability to “accept and embrace.” There are numerous examples of parents who have rejected their children for lesser “crimes.”

Within the context of the article, that bloke’s and his sister’s sexual orientation is heterosexual. No issue with the logic. Besides, how did you think earth populated from just two individuals, Adam & Eve?

Glad you survived the ban. Welcome back.


(Beverley Joseph ) #26

The fact that two people are in a loving relationship does not make the relationship acceptable from a biblical point of view. The Bible is very clear on the terms for relationships wether or not we want to accept them. (The book of Jude states: “Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”)

Many of us as Christians struggle with all kinds of issues, but we are not demanding that these issues be considered to be acceptable. We continue on our knees crying out to God, knowing that Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith.

To my brothers and sisters in Christ who struggle with homosexuality, I plead with you to make the choice to abstain from such relationships. There are many heterosexuals who have chosen to remain single in order to uphold the biblical guidelines for relationships.

Contrary to what some would like the world to believe, the SDA church does not hate LGBTs; it has just chosen to remain faithful to the word of God.


(Website Editor) #27

Danny, as has been mentioned to you multiple times, if you see someone commenting more than once, you are more than welcome to flag the second comment. Flagging a comment notifies the moderators who will then remove it. Because moderation is done manually, by real human beings, we always welcome the additional help in spotting multiple comments. -Web Editor


(Steve Mga) #28

Elmer –
Another example of Biblical Brother and Sister Marriage –
Abraham and Sarah.
God blessed them, and they had Isaac, who had Jacob, who had the 12 Sons of Israel.
Even marrying Close Cousins was acceptable back then.


(Elmer Cupino) #30

@webEd

@Danny has expressed interest in joining the “Lounge.” He comes with impeccable credentials. We all support him joining “The Lounge.”

Thank you.


#32

We need to recognize that talking about issues such as homosexuality, just one amongst many others, is needed however not easy because as a church, we don’t have all the answers or know where to begin. Something we need to get better at admitting. We have God’s word/truth as a guide but need the intervention of the holy spirit to help us apply this to today’s context.
Michael is brave and has done well in sharing his story. Let’s keep praying for guidance & keep the lines of communication open.