Friday night I attended a Freedom 2 B(e) discussion night. In many ways it was pretty much what I expected: a bunch of GLBT Christians sitting around and talking about faith and sexuality. There were about twenty men (no women) there on Friday night. All Christians, all gay (presumably). Wow. I didn’t expect to be tongue-tied… but I really felt like I had nothing to say all night. [I didn’t even think to ask why the ‘e’ in ‘b(e)’ is in bracket(s).] The brief conversations I had before and after the meeting seemed terribly awkward. The few words I said during the actual meeting only came out when I was directly asked a question… I had lots going on in my head, but nothing was going to come out, even if I wanted it to. And this is a man who leads psycho-educational and therapeutic groups for a living! It is so different not being the group leader!

So I reflected on what was going on for me that made it seem so difficult. I think the feelings that overwhelmed me were relief and acceptance. Not to mention the feeling of “wow, I’m in a room with 20 gay men and there’s nothing overtly sexual going on” (I’m NOT getting into what might have been happening covertly); or “wow, I’m in a room with 20 gay men and there’s no one telling us how we can find freedom or deliverance from our sexual proclivities.” The feeling of relief came from being relieved of the straight disguise that I necessarily wear in my daily life. The feeling of acceptance, of it being okay to be on the outside the same man that I’m okay with on the inside.

So, mostly I listened to the conversation, and watched people. I was amazed at how articulate some of the men were – they could tell their stories, or spout off a list of facts with great eloquence. I noticed the ones who weren’t talking (it wasn’t just me). I admired Anthony Venn-Brown’s ability to lead the group – to contain some members and to draw information out of others. I thought about ways the group could be run differently – what I might have done if I were the leader, and what might have helped me feel a bit more comfortable, instead of feeling overwhelmed by my own internal responses to the setting.

I also took notes, at Anthony’s invitation. I thought at one point that the notes would make excellent blogging material. It would also make a great academic paper, which I would love to submit to a journal some day. So for now, I just give some of the points that stood out for me, and we’ll see if I expand on them later.

Most of the conversation centred around the question, “what are the specific needs of GLBT people from church backgrounds?” Here are some answers that were given (and which I have taken license to edit to fit my own understanding):

  • the need for a ‘transitional space’ where GLBT Christians can safely begin to be themselves, in terms of their sexuality and their faith, without fear of either ‘being cruised’ or of being condemned to hell
  • the need for like-minded people to know and to talk to
  • resources to assist in the process of reconciling faith and practice with sexuality
  • education around making choices about sexual activity, including safe-sex
  • non-judgmental safe space within the church
  • skills for effectively and respectfully communicating their stories with church leaders
  • support in “coming out” as a Christian
  • GLBT-friendly discipleship
  • an advocate, someone who will speak for GLBT people within the church
  • an advocate, someone who will speak for people of faith within the GLBT community

So, there you have it. I am moving forward in this journey of self-acceptance. Since the last time I blogged, I have moved to another country with my family, found new work, become re-acquainted with both friends and relatives, found a new church home (I think), and I feel like I have a new lease on life, in spite of the difficulties that seem to be in my way.