Seeds of Hope

Coming Out in a Hostile Environment


[Posted on November 5, 1999]

Rev. Turner:

In the English-speaking Caribbean, as far as I know, there are no MCCs, PFLAGS, Human Rights Campaigns, or GLAADs to which gays and lesbians can turn for support, advice or other forms of assistance in the face of homophobia. While I am aware of people who are gay or lesbian (less so with regard to the latter), I have yet to hear of someone declaring their orientation publicly. The act of coming out almost seems to be confined to such societies as the American, European, and Australian perhaps, to name a few. Certainly, I do hear from time to time about the budding activities and movements in some Central and South American countries, and occasionally in the Middle East and Asia, but the cultural systems or values which exist in the more advanced western industrialized nations (for lack of a better label), and which help foster the resources and, by extension, the climate for tolerance and eventual acceptance are yet to be seen in the wider Caribbean.

While the violence which visited Matthew Shepard and his family, the gay male couple in Redding, CA (I believe) and others in the US is not a phenomenon with which we have had to deal here -- not yet at any rate-- the verbal abuse, the brutal "humor" , statements from various religious authorities (and we have quite a few such powers-that-be here in a population of only 1.5 million), and just the parochial nature of small island societies like this one have all conspired to generate an environment where one feels obligated to keep a low profile. There are a few brave souls, as I like to call them, who live their lives fairly openly...not that they've made any announcements about their sexuality, but it is not something of which their family, friends or work colleague are unaware. It's perhaps acknowledged, and that's that.

I have opted for the low profile category. It's interesting, but the people I have told, three in all, are American and live in the States. I haven't come up with any concrete ideas, but I am still working on leaving here. I can't see myself living here far more entering into any kind of committed relationship in this environment..... I really can't see it happening.....I don't want anything meaningful to happen here. I do not trust or confide in anyone here....gossip and news spreading are rife here, so I keep to myself mostly. Most of the people with whom I was acquainted before I left for college and grad school are married with children, and leading a "normal" life, so interaction with them I keep to a minimum.

I've made the situation sound a little more intolerable than it really is, perhaps. For some reason, I've managed lately to keep my frustration and feelings of isolation to a minimum, but I do want change and I'm not sure how to effect it and prevent myself from settling for what exists now.

Any words of wisdom you may be able to send my way will be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,
N.


Dear N.,

My heart aches for you. It must be tremendously hard to live in a place where one is obligated to keep a "low profile", where you must get up every day and decide what and how you will hide today. It must be difficult to be in a place where one cannot trust their friends or family to be supportive or loving of someone who might be different from them. The brutal and thoughtless verbal attacks of the church towards gay people must be at a level of nastiness that I have not seen nor experienced.

Yet, even as hard as all that is, please know that God has made you the way you are. The uncomfortable life that you lead now of total frustration is a life that you lead of your choosing. This is not what God calls us to do. Remember when Adam discovered that he was naked? He tried to hide it from God and God wanted to know why he was hiding. Adam said that he was naked and ashamed. Are you ashamed of what God has created?

Yes, I know that it is hard to be out. To come out might open you to severe ridicule, lose of family, friends and church. It might even set you up as a target of death. However, in my mind, to face all those things is far better from a matter of truth rather than a lie. When we won't, or don't, acknowledge who we are and try to keep it covered then we lie. We lie about who God has called us to be.

Do you remember the story of Esther, the Jewish women who was married to a pagan King? There was a plot afoot to kill her people. Well she needed to take that information to the King to prevent this wholesale slaughter. But, if she went before the King without an express invitation she could be killed. But her people and their welfare were important to her. Eventually she came to the conclusion: "If I die, I die."

There are people where you live who will benefit from your coming out and being honest and proud of who God has made you to be. You are needed. I don't expect it to be easy, but being honest about who you are is a far better way to live than to live in fear and isolation from the lie that you now have been force to live.

God Bless,

Pastor Paul


Rev. Turner is Sr. Pastor at Gentle Spirit Christian Church in Atlanta, Georgia.

If you are seeking guidance and pastoral care on your journey to fullness as a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered person, please contact Pastor Paul directly at pastorpaul@whosoever.org.