When a child is conceived the first inquiry often is not whether it he or she is healthy but whether the tiny human is a male or a female. And it is the sex of the child that goes on to define an individual’s primary identity. Society by and large continues to live by the basic norms of this sexual identity and engenders individuals accordingly. Gender differences, roles and stereotypes are socially constructed around this identity. These pre-conceived patterns generally accepted by a majority dictate social interactions and groupings. However, the difficulty arises when these gender codes are broken and the general population encounters what it considers to be an anomaly from‘natural’ (boy = man and a girl = woman)human development.
There has been much debate over the reason for such ‘anomalies’ranging from psychological trauma during child abuse to the genetic make up of the individual. The issue gets further complicated when viewed through religious and theological lenses particularly the Christian theological stand surrounding sexuality and the resulting lifestyle choices. And then there is question of gender justice and the provision of fundamental rights for these individuals collectively grouped as the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community.
While I was aware of the LGBT community, I knew very little about them to evoke any sense of concern for them. My first head on encounter to the whole realm of the LGBT community occurred in June 2013 at the Gender Training in Thailand. While the discussion primarily centered on gender development of men and women, we were also engaged in conversation about the LGBT community and the gender biases and stereotypes surrounding them. These biases and stereotypes also have larger repercussions on laws and politics. For example, India, just earlier this month re-criminalized same – sex relationships.
While I cannot claim I have a grasp on all aspects pertaining to this community of people, I caught a glimpse of their struggle to be accepted as human first and be allowed a chance to be integrated in to the mainstream. Because of their differences that go against the grain of cultural and religious norms, most often they are rejected, isolated and judged to be less than human.
Andrew Marin in his book Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Discussion with the Gay Community, addresses this very prejudice against the LGBT community. He concludes that the basic premise to begin a journey to accepting them rests not so much in their sexuality but in their humanness and responding to them with love. No matter from which angle one debates the issue of same-sex relationships, I believe as humans at the core of our being we want to be accepted and loved.
Jesus exemplified such acceptance and love when He responded to those ostracized in the community. Whether in the case of Zaachaeus, the Samaritan Woman, the Lepers or other ‘sinful’ individuals portrayed in the Gospels or all of humankind for that matter, Jesus’ response was always one of unconditional acceptance. He invited himself to Zaachaeus’ house and salvation came to his house, He conversed with the Samaritan woman and salvation came to the village, He sought out ‘sinners’ and the sick and they were saved.
In a world that is ‘flat’ (Friedman, 2005) race, religion, sex, color surpasses national and cultural boundaries with the intention of becoming cohesive. There is more conversation, more books written and more ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue about building cohesive communities than ever before for integration, peace – making and peace building to create a level playing field providing equal opportunities for all to succeed. These dialogues and efforts are not to simply create disconnected sub-sets of people groups but an entire global community that is constituted heterogeneously.
To build such a world requires not just tolerance but respect for and value of individuals. It is probably a simplistic way of working around and through a complex issue, but it is perhaps a starter for a domino effect causing social change. Today, there is a greater onus on the Church to exemplify this respect and unconditional love for all irrespective of their orientation. In doing so, the church, as the channel that God uses to bless the nations, can become harbinger of hope, peace and unity.
Marin, Andrew P..Love is an orientation: elevating the conversation with the gay community. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Books, 2009.
Friedman, Thomas L..The world is flat: a brief history of the twenty-first century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005.
Lakshman, Narayan. “Ban in India hits LGBT community in U.S..” The Hindu (Washington), February 7, 2014. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ban-in-india-hits-lgbt-community-in-us/article5665099.ece (accessed February 20, 2014).