While teaching a group of cadets for the Nashville Sheriff’s Office regarding cross-gender supervision of inmates, I realized that there had been a major culture shift regarding the acceptance of GLBT individuals. Though the cadets came from a politically conservative perspective, they educated me about GBLTQ and that as the generation raised on “Will and Grace”, “Ellen”, and “Queer Eye” that homophobia was a thing of the past. Two of the female cadets self-identified as lesbian and there was strong affirmation from the group.
It was at this point that I realized that though the fight is not over, that these 20-somethings were miles ahead of my generation at that age. As a ministerial student at Lynchburg College in the 70’s, we spoke in hushed tones regarding homosexuality and quietly protected the identity of our few known gay and lesbian classmates/teachers. To be openly gay or lesbian (or being supportive of gays and lesbians) would have invited hazing and ridicule.
I continued my education regarding gender issues at Vanderbilt Divinity School and within a few months of my ordination in 1981 co-officiated at my first Inter-Racial, Ex-Con, Lesbian wedding. I have done numerous GBLTQ weddings since then including my first “legal” wedding in Massachusetts last summer. I look forward to the day when I can officiate at the wedding of my gay son who has been “out” since he was 14.
I find it both amusing and insulting when people speak of individuals “choosing” to be gay or lesbian or condemning marriages that are not between a “man and a woman”. Of the 2500 inmates presently housed in our jail facilities, there is a wide range of “genders” from seemingly virile males with full beards who have vaginas to beautiful, full-figured women with penises. These individuals did not “choose” gender ambiguity and I challenge the conservative nay-sayer to explain how these individuals find love and acceptance in the narrow world of “man and woman.”
But one does not have to have aberrant genitalia to challenge the norm of “man and woman” being the only form of marriage. Despite the modern fixation on genitalia, the most powerful sex organ is the brain and this is where gender orientation is determined. There is nothing sadder than encountering a 50-something from my generation who stifled his/her gay or lesbian nature and lived a life of “quiet desperation” trying to be the heterosexual that society demanded.
I suppose the greatest irony is that I see more acceptance of the GBLTQ community in my daily work at the jail then I see when I attend churches to speak on criminal justice issues. My prediction (and my hope) is that those denominations that are not openly accepting to the GBLTQ community will either adapt or die in the next ten to twenty years. GBLTQ is the new normal.