Section One: The Experience of a Gay and Lesbian People of God

The Voice of the Oppressed

Invoking God's name, Church officials have forbidden us to live as God made us. They have told us to feel shame and guilt for who we are and what we do as sexual beings. They have commanded us not to speak of the truth that we know. The validity of our experience is denied — the most subtle and damaging form of oppression.

Our experience of oppression began as children when we were denied models to which we could look as we struggled to grow and mature sexually. Some of us were betrayed and abused when we sought guidance. More often, we were simply told that what made us different was disgusting and forbidden. The only hope we were offered was that we would grow out of what we felt, or that marriage would cure us, or that God would heal us if we prayed with faith, or that God's grace would enable us to endure life without sex and without intimacy.

Fear and internalized homophobia had their effect. Some of us tried to change. We used counseling, spiritual direction, heterosexual dating, and even marriage. Some of us tried to deny or repress our feelings. We acted as though we were not sexual and put up barriers to intimacy and affection. Some of us tried to live a double life. Some of us reached the point where life was unbearable. We sought relief in compulsive sex, or alcohol and drugs, or suicide.

Some of us overcame fear and came out to friends and family or a more public world. We were able to step outside the facade that was built as a defense but had become a prison. We were able to be honest with those who mattered to us. That was a liberating experience, even though it sometimes meant the loss of family, friends, employment, and Church.

Under the weight of prohibition, rejection, derision, and hate, many of us have felt estranged from God, Church, society, friends, family - even from ourselves. Our Church told us to comply or leave. Society warned us to hide our love and not flaunt our sexuality. Friends were distant. Family members were unable to understand. The need to deny feeling and affection left some among us less than whole, lacking in self-esteem, unable to trust.

Despite clear signs of progress, we still experience direct oppression within the Church. Groups that call attention to such oppression or seek the development of church teachings on sexuality are forbidden the use of church property. Some bishops oppose legislation protecting our civil rights. Even those Church officials who empathize with our struggle hardly dare to risk public gestures of fellowship and support.