It may seem a bit obvious to say that we’re all different and no two people have exactly the same story, but it’s easy to make assumptions about those of us in sexual minority groups. I’ve caught myself doing it many times. Because I’m a same-sex attracted Christian, I can easily fall into the trap of thinking that I can fully relate to others matching that description. Sometimes it’s just such a relief to find another Christian who experiences same-sex attraction that we overlook the sometimes significant differences between us and make unhelpful assumptions.
Of course, there are similarities – the cost of applying the Bible’s teaching, not being understood, dealing with shame, navigating same-sex friendship, struggling with fantasies – but there are important points of divergence too. Amongst same-sex attracted Christians there are male and female, married and single, introverts and extroverts, those with kids and those without kids, old and young… the list goes on. We’ve all had different church involvement and wide-ranging family backgrounds.
Of course, there are similarities, but there are important points of divergence too.
Female same-sex attraction can be very different from male same-sex attraction. And the experience of a woman who didn’t realise she was gay until she was 30 is very different from a woman who has been aware of being gay ever since she can remember. The struggles of a man who has had lots of sexual partners will be different from a man who has never had a sexual experience. Some people battle porn addiction, others don’t. For some, it’s much more about sex. For others, emotional dependency is a much bigger issue. Personally, I have never struggled with porn, but I have fallen in love with a close female friend on numerous occasions.
For some, it is difficult to navigate what it means to be a woman or man. There are some gay women who have no problem wearing dresses and make up, and others – like me – who feel much more comfortable wearing jeans all the time. There are some same-sex attracted men who enjoy sports and typical ‘manly’ pursuits, and others who prefer baking and musicals.
It’s clear that everything about us makes our personal story and particular struggles unique.
Being a minority of a minority (LGBT and Christian) can be isolating enough, but when others in that minority don’t even have the same experiences as you it can feel like you’re the only one going through a particular struggle or temptation. So how can we all understand and support one another better? Here are a few ideas:
- Don’t make assumptions. (‘All same-sex attracted people must feel like this’ or ‘This is what a gay person would do/feel in this situation’.) It may be the case for some, but it won’t be for everyone.
- Recognise that same-sex attraction is complex and there are other factors that play into it (biological sex, marital status, family background, age, experience of gender etc.).
- Listen to people. Ask good questions. Reflect back to make sure you are understanding properly. Give people time and a safe, compassionate environment so that they can express themselves as and when they feel comfortable.
- Read and listen to the stories of a wide range of LGBT people. You can watch our story videos and find some helpful books here on our website.
- Work things out in community. No one will share our realities completely, but we will have something in common with everyone, so a network of supportive Christian friends with whom we can share our lives is important for all of us to live out our faith well.