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With Friends Like These

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Here's a letter recently in:

Dear John,



First of all, your posts on all things Christian have me hooked as a fan; reading them is always enlightening. Which is why I want to share something with you.



As a gay college student living in Southeast Asia, I am always discreet about coming out to close friends. Last Saturday, two guy friends and I were on a drive back from lunch, when I told them about me. They didn't know yet of my sexual orientation, and I felt guilty for not being honest with them.



When I told them, one of my friends caught me totally unaware with a question.



"Do you want to change?" he said.



"No. I accept who I am."



"Well, do you want a family?"



"Of course, yes -- with children. It just means there'll be no wife in the picture: just me and my husband."



"If you want a family," said my other friend, "why don't you marry a woman?"



"I sometimes find them hot," I said, "but I don't get turned on by women the way straight guys do."



"You just need a girlfriend."



The three of us argued for some time. My friends kept telling me that if I ask for Jesus' help, I can become straight. I told them that although it doesn't work that way, I respected their advice, and would think about the merits of what they'd said. They then accused me of being defensive -- and said that I was sure to suffer God's wrath because of my stubbornness.



I never felt so ashamed of myself. Here I am, trying to tell my friends that being gay is not a bad thin -- and all I am getting is the charge that I am too lazy to pray for change.



What should I do, John, to defend myself in such a situation -- or, better, to make sure such a situation won't come up again?

Dear young man who wrote me this:

Thanks for sharing this problem with me and us. Affording us such a glimpse into your life helps us know more about our own.

As I'm guessing you already know, coming out to people sometimes causes them to freak out a little. Quite often, they soon enough thereafter settle down, though, and become OK with what, to them, is the new you. Sometimes the person coming out just has to wait for that uncomfortable storm to pass. It's unfortunate that people tend to need that adjustment period, but, let's face it: we humans aren't the swiftest group in the world.

Wait. I guess we are.

Yikes. That can't be good.

Actually, bees seem to be the big geniuses of the planet, don't they? With that weird little dance they do and everything?

Anyway, sorry. Back to your friends.

I hope they come around; I hope they already have. The bottom line, though, is that a gay person coming out soon learns that, like all people, they have two kinds of friends: true friends and faux friends. A true friend of yours loves and wants to be in relationship with the person you really are. A faux friend of yours loves and wants to be in relationship with the person they need you to be.

When push comes to shove, a true friend puts you and your needs ahead of themselves, but a faux friend puts themselves and their needs ahead of you.

Your friends blew it; they definitely proved themselves, at least during that car ride, to be your faux friends. They made your coming out to them about them: about their needs, their comfort level, their convictions. That's a giant Friend Fail, for sure. When you come out to your friends, it's supposed to be all about you. Period.

The couple of times I had friends come out to me, you know what I did? I shut the [bleep] up. I listened. My singular concern immediately became hearing every last word they cared to say. And there's nothing special about me. That a person coming out to you deserves your full attention and respect is something known by everybody.

Everybody, that is, except for people like your "friends" -- who, predictably, are Christian.

Sigh.

My fellow Christians: please at least have the class to let people come out without immediately banging them on the head with a Bible. We all understand your insipid need to be a complete dick for Jesus, but please try your best to hold off on that for a day or two, won't you? Thanks! Signed, the entire universe.

There. That should do it. Problem solved!

OK, maybe not.

Next time, friend, I will share with you a thought or two relative to the idea of ensuring that the sort of moment you experienced with your friends never happens to you again.

The short of that is this: you can't ever stop some people from being, right up in your face, socially maladjusted cretins. That's just a law of life. What you can change, however, is how often, and how deeply, you let that bother you.