Straight Privilege/Gay Penalty?

The Ohio Region of the DOC requires all clergy to attend an Antiracism/Pro Reconciliation training event in order to keep their standing. One aspect of the training is the naming of “White Privilege,”  the benefits in terms of job opportunities, higher salaries, lower loan rates, and so on that a white person (more specifically a white male) enjoys by the virtue of the color of his skin and gender. A recent study by the American Association of University Women highlighted the continuing gender and racial pay gap.

I am sure that I have benefited in the past from white and male privilege especially when I have been among the candidates to be a pastor at a local church. Being a white guy did not guarantee me any position, but my gender and skin color were not barriers either.

Skin color and gender can still be issues for some local church pulpit committees, but I am sure that a much bigger issue for many pulpit committees would be sexual orientation. What is “Straight Privilege” worth anyway? Another way to ask the question is this: What is the economic penalty of being upfront about your sexual orientation if that identity is anything but straight? Just what is the “Gay Penalty” in the Disciples of Christ? How many of our churches would refuse to interview a gay or lesbian or transgender person?

Years ago, I was working with a pulpit committee who was planning on setting up an interview with a candidate (a white guy) but backed away when they noticed that he had included in his ministerial profile that he had served on a GLAD committee. I don’t know whether he was gay or straight, but his service with GLAD was too close for comfort for them.

I have noticed that the GLAD website lists only one Ohio church that is officially “Open & Affirming.”  Kentucky has four, Indiana has four, and Illinois has three. So in the sweet spot for Disciples Churches – that American heartland boasting hundreds and hundreds of Disciples churches – only twelve have indicated officially that they would be open to gay, lesbian, and transgender candidates.

Most clergy don’t come out about their gender or race. Except in rare circumstances, those attributes are easy to determine and difficult to disguise. Privileges and penalties accompany those qualities.

But sexual orientation is different, isn’t it? People – specifically Disciples clergy – can make a choice whether or not to come out. And if they come out as anything but straight, hundreds and hundreds of professional opportunities are taken away from them. How much money is lost over the course of a career when a gay/lesbian/transgender comes out? What is the cost of coming out?

Just what is Straight Privilege worth for Disciples clergy? What is the Gay Penalty?