My heart is hurting this morning. It's been hurting since Saturday. It's actually been hurting for a long while now. About a year ago, I got a call from the church receptionist telling me that there was a young man upstairs looking to talk to someone. Our custodian brought him downstairs, and I immediately recognized him as a young man who worked at Target--pretty sad that I go there so much that I know their employess, but that's another story for another day. Although this was the first time I had met him, I could see sadness in his eyes. I asked him where the sadness was coming from, and he told me that he was a gay 19-year-old, that he had grown up in a very religious family who had shunned him and turned him away when he came out to them. It broke my heart that his family--any family--could do that to someone they loved. Even though my family certainly doesn't agree on much or see eye-to-eye on many things, I could tell them anything about myself and they would still love me anyway--for that, I am very grateful. This young broke my heart, and I told him that, even though he didn't feel much love from his family, that God loved him dearly. He told me that I was the first person who had reminded him of that since he had come out. Heartbreaking.
When I served on the Church Orders and Ministry Committee at General Assembly this summer, the committee heard stories from folks who came and beared their hearts to us. Some told us that they had been with someone from the same gender and had come to see it as sin and repented of their actions. Some shared with us that they had felt same-gender attraction but had never acted upon it. Some told us that Jesus had saved them from a "homosexual lifestyle" (their words). Some told us that they had had gay Sunday school teachers and youth leaders who were the best and most creative and most wonderful teachers that they had ever had in the church. And others told us that God created them gay, that their parents had always loved and accepted them wholeheartedly, and that they felt called to serve the Lord in the church--the church who was struggling over whether or not to validate that call. All heartbreaking.
My heart has been broken since this past Saturday, as my family and I were walking to Jordan-Hare Stadium for the Auburn game. There were 3 teenagers in front of us, one a young man dressed in skinny jeans and a tight t-shirt. One group of folks walked past him and a student yelled at him--for no reason--"Hey, did you know that you're gay?" I couldn't believe it. And then, 30 seconds later, another student who was walking the opposite way intentionally changed his course and walked right into this young man. The young man said, "Hey, watch where you're going!" And the student yelled a slur back at him, a two word slur, both words starting with the letter F. To say that I was pissed off was putting lightly. Reacting with my own anger, I yelled back at the student, "I can't believe you just said that! So inappropriate and so wrong!" I was pissed, but I now admit that it probably wasn't the best way to approach the situation. I patted the young man on the back, telling him how sorry I was that it had just happened and he thanked me. My heart broke for this young man, that in a span of 30 seconds, he was abused physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
And now, three stories have come out this week about young gay men who have been abused. A thirteen-year-old attempted suicide after being subjected to gay slurs from his classmates. He was just taken off life support: http://www.aolnews.com/surge-desk/article/seth-walsh-dies-after-suicide-attempt-another-teen-bullied-over-perceived-sexuality/19653569. A freshman at Rutgers University jumped off a building this week after his roommate, without his consent, videotaped him having sex with another man and put it online: http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/09/hold_new_rutgers_post.html. And in the most unbelievable case of all, an assistant DA in Michigan is harassing the student body president at the University of Michigan: http://articles.cnn.com/2010-09-28/us/michigan.justice.blog_1_gay-student-student-government-minority-students?_s=PM:US. Seriously--there is an assistant district attorney for the state of Alabama who is an elder at my church, and I know how much time his job takes up, how busy he is, how hard he works. Does this guy in Michigan need more work to do instead of harassing this college student?
My heart is breaking today. I have seen with my own eyes how young gay folks are harassed, and I can't imagine having to live with that kind of crap every day. The suicide stories break my heart, perhaps because I have experienced the suicide of someone who was and is so dear to me. It still hurts each day, and I know the aftershocks that suicide leaves for family, friends, and the community. This has to stop. A twitter post from the Unvirtuous Abbey this morning sums up why my heart is broken: "Lord, you who placed a child on your knee & said the kingdom belongs to such as these, we pray for teens bullied b/c of their sexuality. Amen." Jesus said to them, "Let the little children come unto me, for it is as such to these that the kingdom of God belongs." Let it be so.