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A Letter to Queer Youth

December 12, 2011

Dear Beloved Youth Wrestling with Sexuality that May Be Different from Your Peers,

Where do I begin? There is so much that I want to tell you. I think I will start by saying that I am a Christian. I love God and I love Jesus, although Iím not always very good at that. I tell you that I am a Christian because it is in that capacity that I want to say to you: God loves you just as you are ó as a person who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

I tell you that I am a Christian because I think that the church is not doing enough to support you, as you grow into adulthood in very trying times. I am deeply sorry. Know, however, that there are a great many people out there who think as I do. Unfortunately, we are not as interesting as the voices of hate and so we are not usually given the microphone in this media driven society. So I guess we need to be louder: GOD LOVES YOU JUST AS YOU ARE.

I also want you to know that I have some wonderfully gifted gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered friends who radiate the light of Christ. If you met them you would agree with me. Some of them are pastors. All of them are people I have met through the church. I want you to know that because I want you to know that those people are out there. They understand your struggles and they care very much about you. They want you to find a place where you are nurtured, supported and loved for who you are. There are people like me out there too, who donít necessarily understand your struggles because we are straight and have not walked in your shoes, but we too, want for you to find a place where you are nurtured, supported and loved for who you are. So please know that no matter how alone you feel, you are not alone. There are a lot of people out there who care about you. You might not have met them yet, but you will.

The next thing I want to tell you is that, it is not fair ó that during your adolescence when everything is already so damn confusing, when identity is already such a difficult thing to grasp, when sexuality is new, and sometimes frightening ó that you must grapple, in such a toxic and hate filled environment, with a sexuality that is different from those around you. It. Is. Not. Fair. But donít give up. The world needs your light, your gifts and your talents.

If there are people in your life who are telling you that you are an abomination or something to that affect, hear me say to you, that is a lie. You are not an abomination. You are a beloved child of God Ė THAT is who you are. I wish that I could tell you not to listen, but I know that words hurt. Words rip and cut and tear into us, sometimes into our very souls, leaving us more battered and bloody than violence ever could. I wish I could protect you from that.

Finally, I owe you an apology. I have not done enough. I have not spoken up loudly enough. I have not been direct enough. I have cared too much about who I might offend or what people might think. I have been a coward, but it is my hope that I am a recovering coward learning to be brave. So I want to tell you that I am sorry that I have not done enough. I watch horrified as the body count rises from queer teen suicides, and I want to close my eyes and block out the hate crimes, but I know that if I do not speak up I am as compliant in those crimes against humanity as if I had pulled the trigger or wielded the knife.

So let me be more direct about my beliefs: I support same-sex marriage. I do not believe that homosexuality is a sin any more than heterosexuality. I do believe that we, as a human family and especially as people of faith, must be very careful with sex. It is a relationship that should be entered into with mutual commitment, love, compassion and respect, which means that our bodies as well as our mental and physical health should always be honored and cared for within that commitment.

I am delighted that my own church denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), ordains people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender to be elders, deacons and ministers of word and sacrament.  I believe that history will look back at our present time with shame over the way we have treated people who are queer.

Hang in there. My prayer for you is that you will find safe places and people who will help you get through the hard times. I am going to begin cataloging a list of those places across the country and will post them on my blog as I learn about them. So check back in a few days.

Grace and Peace,

Neely

* I have chosen to use the term queer in the title of my letter because after talking to two of my good friends in the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) community, I learned that queer is a term that has been reclaimed as an inclusive term for all people in the GLBT community. One friend told me that she preferred the term queer when identifying herself. The other friend said she identified most with the word gay, but had found that it was a comfort and a support to be included in the Queer Community. She also said that she thinks discovering the Queer Community and the language of Queer is liberating for people coming out.

I am grateful for these two long time friends, both of whom I met when I was eighteen. Once during a conversation in which I said something stupid and naÔve about what it is actually like to live in this society as a person who is queer, one of them said to me, ďNeely, if you are going to be for justice then be for justice. You canít pick and choose.Ē That statement has stuck with me.

Both of these friends are now pastors and I affirm their call with all my heart. I have watched this call evolve in them over the twelve years that I have known them. I say with absolute certainty that they are where God intended for them to be.


Dear Adults Who Care About Queer Youth,

When I asked my friend, a pastor and member of the Queer Community, Rachel Parsons-Wells about how to support queer youth, she said, ďa lot of well meaning Christians want to be supportive of queer youth and young adults, but really to be helpful they need to be more vocal about their support, find out what the local resources are, volunteer, buy a t-shirt, let people know that YOU are a safe place. When you are familiar with local resources, then you can help young people find support when they come to you.Ē

I write to you now because for sometime I have felt God pushing me to do so, pushing within me so strongly that I think if I did not write I would break into a million pieces from the force of it. I know others feel as I do. So I would like to invite adults who read my blog to look into resources for queer youth that are local to you and post them in the comments section of this blog or e-mail them to me by using the e-mail address found under the contact tab. I would like to begin to catalog a list of safe places of support around the country for queer youth.  I will post them on my blog as I learn about them.

I close by declaring that I am a safe place. I will delete any negative comments or comments that wish to engage in debate, even friendly debate, because that is not the purpose of this post. The purpose is support and that is where I stand.

Grace and Peace,

Neely


Neely Stansell-Simpson is a freelance writer who lives in Columbia, SC, with her husband, daughter, two dogs, one cat, and a turtle named Darwin. She studied Christian Education and Philosophy at Presbyterian College and served the Presbyterian Church (USA) for 5 years as a Director of Youth Ministries for two churches, one in Lexington, VA, and one in Greenville, SC. She had charted a course for seminary and was very nearly there when she got derailed. Finding herself going, huh? in one of Godís inconvenient bends in the road, she discovered that she was happy being derailed because the thought of professional ministry scared the pants off of her and what she really wanted to do was write. She glimpses God in her housemates everyday, mostly the two legged ones, but you never know what is going to happen. God works in mysterious ways, which is great fodder for writing.

Originally posted on Glimpsing God; used by permission of the author.

 

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