"I'm going to beat the homosexuality out of you!"
And with those frightening words, I entered the realm of being persecuted for being bisexual. It's been two years, but I still recall that night as if it were today.
I smelled the alcohol on his breath and the dank odor of cigarette smoke. I remember my eyes bulging as his arm squeezed my throat. My glasses warped in its lenses. The adrenaline pumped through me. My assailant yelled, "I'm going to kick you like a dog in a cage!"
Somehow I recalled the words of Jesus clearly, "You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well." (Matthew 5:38-39 CEB) Looking back on it, I realize just how difficult those words are to obey.
I started seeing colors swimming in front of my eyes. I couldn't breathe. The only thing I tried to do was to try to pry his arms off of me.
All of the sudden I could breathe. His arms were off of me and he was kneeling a short distance away from me with his hands behind his neck. My glasses couldn't stay right on my face and I gulped huge breaths of air. My neck muscles hurt in ways they never had before.
I looked at him as the police quietly put handcuffs on him and hauled him away.
And with that, my life was forever changed.
I had been walking the borderline of coming out for such a long time. I didn't know how my friends, colleagues, and family members would take it. I had hope that people would accept me. People knew my reputation. They knew my heart. They knew me as a person. I was still the same person. I still love British humor and could recite Monty Python and the Holy Grail from memory. I still had a quirky taste in music and listened to grunge music after playing Gustav Holst. People knew me. That shouldn't change anything. Right?
How wrong I was.
One of my family members, after learning about the assault and what happened to me and why I was attacked, told me, "You know that being gay is a sin. Right, Tim?" I had been assaulted and it was as if I had been blamed for the assault because of my orientation. I didn't even correct them that I am bisexual, not gay.
My Church would accept me. Wouldn't they? After all, we talk about welcoming everyone and loving everyone without discrimination. Then I was told I was terminated with cause as an officer (pastor) in The Salvation Army. My beliefs on LGBT inclusion were a huge contributing factor. I soon realized that they welcomed you at first, but you have to conform in order to belong. If you disagreed with their theology, you were no longer welcome.
Many people in the LGBT community are constantly ridiculed or put down because of who they are or whom they love. People throw verses at me as if this should convince me that they love me and that I am wrong. It reminds me of this comic from David Hayward (used with kind permission):
My story is, unfortunately, not unique. Just this past month, a teenage transgender girl was murdered and her corpse burned. The motives are as, of yet, unknown, but I can only speculate that it was motivated because of hate. I realize that my situation, although not so extreme, is not uncommon.
It is easy to hate those who are different than you. Somehow I believe that Jesus would in no way condemn anyone because of their orientation. Matthew 5 is one of my favorite scripture passages. It has become even more relevant to me in the Common English Bible translation:
If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete. - Matthew 5:46a and 49.
What does love look like? It certainly hasn't been what I've experienced from fellow Evangelical Christians.
Love is my sister not condemning me, but listening to me when I tell her the struggles of being bisexual.
Love is my pastor not even batting an eye when I tell him that I'm bisexual.
Love is watching my friend weep at reading the news of another murder of someone in the LGBT community.
Love is my friends resigning as pastors when they realize that they can no longer in good conscience serve a denomination that refuses to welcome all.
Somehow I think that Jesus would have new words of condemnation for us in this world:
"Get away from me, you who will receive terrible things. I was poor and you said I was too lazy to work. I was a refugee from war and you thought I would bring war to your country. I was an immigrant and you thought I would take away the jobs you refused to do. I was murdered by guns and you fought to keep the right to bear arms. I was black and being persecuted because of the color of my skin and you said I should be patriotic. I was gay and you kicked me out of your church."
I remember that night: choking, gasping for breath, my glasses no longer sitting correctly on my face. I realize now that Jesus was there, too.