Saving Queer Lives: Half A Loaf is Not Enough

A photograph of Haven HerrinA good friend of mine, Haven Herrin, once said in response Christian college administrators offering conditional conversation (not even conditional acceptance): “What you are telling me is that because I am gay you will offer me half a loaf and because I am gay, I should take it. I don’t want half a loaf.”

I see well-intentioned folks offering halves of loaves everywhere today. I see other well-intentioned people defending or even applauding their offerings. Half a loaf is not enough.

An influential piece of writing was Tony & Peggy Campolo’s joint discussion on homosexuality. In it, Peggy takes the position that LGBT people are acceptable just as we are and that nothing about who we are or how we love is second rate. Tony takes that position that while (straight) Christians should love gay people, and while gay people should be allowed to go to church, and while, perhaps, gay people should even be given some sort of legal recognition of their relationships, “homosexual behavior” is sinful, gay relationships aren’t sanctioned by the church. That discussion was eye-opening for me. It mattered not one lick what Tony said. He might as well have said I was doomed to hell. What matter, the only thing that mattered, was that Peggy Campolo offered a clear and unequivocal call for inclusion. That is a full a loaf. That is what saves lives.

We see more examples of half a loaf: When churches allow LGBT people to come and worship but do not give them leadership roles or impose restrictions on their ability to serve (only if you’re not in a relationship!). We see this when straight, white, Evangelical male Andrew Marin lives in Boystown Chicago for eight years and appoints himself the spokesperson for LGBT-Christian reconciliation. Nevermind queer folks (and allies) have been doing this work decades. Nevermind that his citations of gay people are problematic  (they’re all self-loathing and closeted, drug addicted, cheating on their spouse, and/or living with HIV/AIDS). This is half a loaf and half a loaf is not enough.

When I was young, and queer, and unsure of myself, and afraid to come out, half a loaf was not good enough. When I was nineteen and struggling to make a place for myself in the world as a newly out young man, half a loaf was not good enough. And today, half a loaf is not good enough. We do not need to settle for halves of loaves: there are people willing to share the whole loaf with us and we can make our own bread together. If we want to end bullying and save lives, we must offer a full loaf.

And so to my friends who want to love LGBT/queer people without changing their beliefs that being queer and/or transgender is sinful, to my friends who are happy to welcome but not to affirm, to those who accept their queer friends in private but won’t say it aloud: you are offering half a loaf and half a loaf is not enough.

Well-intentioned talk of bridge building and timing and incremental change is just that: well-intentioned talk. What queer people of all ages need is fruitful action. There is never a “right time” and it will never be comfortable so right now is the best time you have to say “Let us break this loaf of bread together!” Right now is the best time you have to say “I don’t have all the answers but I know that I need to start changing!” Right now is the best time you have to say “Ok, it’s my turn to listen to you!”

That is what love looks like. That is how to support bullied youth. That is how to make things better. So let’s get to it! What will you do today to make sure you’re offering a full loaf?

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