Kissing Without Fear: Conversations About Homosexuality and Religion

by: Todd Andrew Clayton

Note: This piece was originally featured on the author’s blog and was reposted with permission. You can find the original here.

The table that we circled had listened to us for over an hour, carrying our questions, our flattened palms, our tears. After re-hashing biblical passages, examining social patterns, combing through church history, and fielding anecdotal offerings, the three of us sat, exhausted, uncertain as to how best to proceed.

“It’s a complicated conversation,” said my friend, sitting opposite me. “It will take some time to figure out what this means for the church.”

My hands were in the air, the lines on my brow betraying the frustration in my chest.

“I don’t have time for infinite musing. It’s not a conversation for me,” I cried. “By virtue of living, I make a claim.”

I struggle significantly with the practice of homosexuality being a topic of conversation among my friends, family and colleagues in the church. The issue, I should clarify, is not that it is being discussed. This, in fact, gives me great hope, and has ushered many people who would have otherwise silently wrestled with their identities into places of monumental freedom. The issue comes from the conversation remaining just that: a dialogue that often fails to boldly move beyond, into the gift of concrete claims about what a homosexual orientation means for one’s future.

For straight people, this ambiguous conversational space doesn’t have to be resolved. They can marvel at the apparent complexity, enjoy the throes of challenging discourse, and go home to their spouses and families, nestled snugly—and ideologically safely—in bed. For LGBT people, however, for people like me, leaving the conversation unresolved relegates us to a life of ecclesiological and personal limbo. By living my life, however, by my going home to a husband, by my rearing children, by my holding the hand of a person of the same sex as I walk down the street, by kissing him goodbye at the airport, I make a definitive statement, rendering long-term ambiguity untenable.

Because no one decisively spoke, I laid face down on my bed at age fifteen and wept, having woken from a dream where my friend’s dad and I were unmentionably close.

Because no one decisively spoke, the water ran down my eleven-year old head, carrying with it the disgrace-filled soap that I scrubbed in my hair, on my skin. As I showered, water would collect in the crevices of my collarbone and run down my chest like winding rivers of shame and discontent, swirling, ultimately, in the drain below. Scrubbing, I would pray for change.

Because no one decisively spoke, I snuck out of my literature class sophomore year, racked by guilt and shame, knelt on the bathroom floor, and vomited, the toilet my altar.

This week I found myself immersed, once again, in this conversation. For this reason, I find myself compelled to make a definite claim, to navigate the seemingly murky waters of dialogue about LGBT people in the church, but to ultimately end with a proclamation: to be gay and experience the partnership of another—emotionally, sexually, spiritually—does not call one into a violation of the biblical texts. On the contrary, the space within the church for people of all sexual orientations is great.

Kiss away.

Todd Andrew Clayton wishes he were good at soccer.  He lives in San Diego & writes at coffee shops & in his living room.  Someday, he hopes that he can write & get paid for it.  Until then, he’s going to grad school.  He likes Thai food & wants to go to Ireland before he dies.

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2 responses to “Kissing Without Fear: Conversations About Homosexuality and Religion

  1. This has brought me to tears, and given me hope in ways I didn’t know was possible.

    I needed this like flowers need rain.

  2. Thank you for your courage. As an African-American, Latino, Asian gay man, you have given me the ability to continue standing up for myself. I can totally relate to your message of having courage. I am grateful that I do believe in God whom I know am his child. Nevertheless, the Stereotype of just being a man has been diifficult. So for us to “STAND” together specially who I know am a “Sprititual” person has been challenging. Not only do we have a long way to go as Black people here in America, but also being a black, latino, gay man. I also find that within the Black, LGBT, theres so much differences but also differences of “OPINIONS”, .like CRABLS IN A BARREL. I am not much of a Political person but I do believe in GOD, where I also find it perplexed in churches to be a Black, Latino, Asain gay man. Again, Thank you for your “Courage”. Maybe one day “America” will become America again, if and when we “STAND” TOGETHER INSTEAD OF “BEING DIVIDED” WE FALL. I HAVE A DREAM JUST AS MARTING LUTHER KIND DID THAT ONE DAY WE AS HUMAN BEINGS CAN BE PUBLICLY ACCEPTED BASE NOT ON THE COLOR OF OUR SKIN BUT BY THE CONTENT OF CHARACTER OF EACH RACE.

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