Several weeks ago, I wrote an article about the confrontation the School of the Ozarks was having with federal law regarding transgender students. In it, I defended the school for two reasons: (1) it is a private school and I do not believe our government should mandate to private schools, and (2) the issue of transgender and its implications for dormitory life is not clear.
The issue of transgender individuals is fast becoming a pivotal issue in our country right now, and it is very hard for traditional folks to comprehend. The enlarged issues involving the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and others such as pansexual and Two-Spirit) community is even harder to comprehend.
Unfortunately, the impression received by most of the people in our society is that people who fit into these categories are simply demanding to participate in any sexual activity they choose. In reality, most of the people in these categories are good people trying hard to understand their sexuality in a world that tends to deny anything different than a heterosexual lifestyle. It is unfortunate that the situation is usually over popularized and complicated by the fringe elements of these people. For many parents, the stress is at least equal, if not more so, for them than for their child who is struggling with his or her sexual identity. It's tough and very confusing.
There are many "welcoming and affirming" churches in our country, and I have been exposed to some of them. They have taught me that lesbian and homosexual people are not bad; they are just people who have discovered they love someone of the same sex more than they do someone of the opposite sex. Except for the Hollywood examples, almost all of these people live good, moral and productive lives without causing problems for anyone. Looking back, I am sure that I had a number of these people in every church I served as a pastor, and I cannot remember anyone who was out of line worshiping God.
When you observe some of the LGBTQ+ parades with individuals dressed ridiculously and others marching semi-nude with their genitals showing, it is easy to understand the feelings of parents watching their children become involved. It's easy to "proof-text" positions condemning these lifestyles from the Bible, something that too many Christians easily do while ignoring similar or worse situations also found in the Bible, but that does not solve the problem. There are a lot more heterosexual sins found in the Bible than homosexual ones.
Instead of being caught in the flow of negativism, I suggest a better way is to ignore the stigmas attached to different sexual lifestyles and attempt to better understand the needs of the people involved. Having a different sexual lifestyle does not excuse anyone from living a good and productive life, but that does not ignore the struggle such a person faces in our society. It is unfortunate that we do not have much of a loving and forgiving history in our country. It is not just sexual differences; we have not done well with religious differences, our attitudes toward African Americans, ethnic groups, and too many immigrants.
After writing my last article, someone whose identity is unknown sent me a copy of Marsha Aizumi and Aiden Aizumi's book, "Two Spirits One Heart." It is about a mother, her transgender son, and their journey to love and acceptance. I was so impressed that someone would make such an effort to help me better understand the issues of a transgender person instead of just condemning my efforts to deal with the subject that I immediately read the book during the next six hours. Whoever you are, thank you. I would recommend the book to anyone struggling with these issues.
The authors share both sides of their journey, and it certainly wasn't easy. Fortunately for Aiden, he had two loving and supportive parents who had the means to help him, but the authors also go much further and provide insights into their struggles that will help most people. Loving parents who have a child struggling with his/her sexuality do not need the support of people who want to condemn their child or send him/her to hell; they need the help of people who are willing to walk with them through the valleys of life in order to discover the richness of God's love that makes the valleys grow with possibilities.
My generation may be too old to fully comprehend the complexities of life today, but we are not too old to love our children and to do everything possible to help them love us back.
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Robert Box has been a law enforcement chaplain for 27 years. He is a master-level chaplain with the International Conference of Police Chaplains and is an endorsed chaplain with the American Baptist Churches, USA. He also currently serves as a deputy sheriff chaplain for the Benton County Sheriff's Office. Opinions expressed in the article are the opinions of the author and not the agencies he serves.