Stories are powerful. Sharing your own can be a life-changing experience. Encountering someone else’s can transform your view of them – and others like them – in a very short period of time.
Stories with sad endings have a particular power. They leave you yearning for change, often willing to help make it happen. The 2014 film The Imitation Game, a biopic of the English mathematician Alan Turing, had such an effect on many, and rightly so: the treatment he received due to his homosexuality was appalling. Tragic stories like his have helped positively transform societal attitudes and actions towards others like him.
But such changes can put sexual minority groups under pressure to reward people with new stories that always and only have happy endings: look how things have progressed; everything is fine now. Society wants to be reassured that they have done enough, that gay men and women, for example, are now all living happily ever after.
But, in our present world, very few true stories are like this and this reality needs to be more honestly recognised. One gay man who is bravely doing this is the former editor of Attitude magazine, Matthew Todd. He’s written a book entitled Straight Jacket: Overcoming Society’s Legacy of Gay Shame. The book confronts the reality that many gay men in the UK of today are not living happily ever after: instead, they are struggling with anxiety, addictions, body image issues, depression, and suicidal thoughts (and actions). He shares many contemporary stories with sad endings to make his point that things have not changed enough.
Living Out was born out of a recognition that evangelical churches have produced too many stories with sad endings when it comes to sexual minority groups. We often share them on our LOCAL days to leave the current generation of church leaders yearning for change and willing to make that happen. We have been consistently encouraged by the willingness of such people to repent and transform their attitudes and actions towards people like us.
However, that can create a pressure on us at Living Out to reward supportive Christians with new stories that always and only have happy endings: look how we have progressed; everything is fine now. Churches want to be reassured that they have done enough, that the same-sex attracted men and women in their midst are now all living happily ever after.
In the future we want to be braver in sharing the mental health struggles that many Christians who experience same-sex attraction still experience.
But, again, in our present world, very few true stories are like this and that reality needs to be more honestly recognised by us too. In the future we want to be braver in sharing the mental health struggles that many Christians who experience same-sex attraction still experience. We will be endeavouring to share more contemporary stories with a range of different experiences to make our argument that things have often not changed enough and that Christ-like adherence to biblical sexual ethics always needs to be accompanied by Christ-like pastoral care for sexual minority groups.
Doing this will hopefully bring comfort to sisters and brothers who feel their stories are unheard, challenge other Christians to do more, and point us all to the gospel reality that we will only all live happily ever after when Jesus returns and renews all things.