The recent protests outside a school in Birmingham over LGBTQ inclusive education has re-opened the difficult debate over who gets to decide what children are taught. The protests have led to some claiming that there is a ‘gay agenda’ and to be honest, there is. But it’s not quite what they think.
In London, five teenagers have been arrested following a vicious homophobic attack on a night bus after the victims, a lesbian couple, refused to kiss for the gang. The gang were aged 15 to 18, which for me highlights the need for LGBTQ inclusive education. You see, the education that we are talking about is simply telling kids – who may themselves be LGBTQ – that it’s OK and normal. And it is. Kids who are LGBTQ will be LGBTQ wether we tell them it’s OK or not. And kids that are straight will be straight wether we tell them that it’s OK to be LGBTQ or not. But the hope is that there will be less LGBTQ kids with anxiety and depression and less straight kids carrying out vicious homophobic attacks if we educate them. And with homophobic and transphobic attacks in the UK rising, that’s an important step.
I’ve always agreed that parents should get to decide what their kids get taught and at what age – until the point that your choice starts to hurt others. If your choice not to tell kids that being LGBTQ is OK results in them hurling abuse at me or beating me up, that’s not OK. We all hope and believe that our children won’t do these things, but I have been called all sorts of abusive homophobic names by ‘good kids’ from ‘good families’. Trust me, kids are different when they are with their friends and away from their parents.
I started this article by saying that there is a gay agenda, and this is it. We want to be able to live our lives without fear. We want to be able to do the things that most straight people take for granted. To get a night bus in London without a group of youths demanding we kiss and beating us up if we refuse, to be open about who we love and not to have to hide who we really are.
That’s really why I started Embrace Teesside. The fact that so many LGBTQ people feel unable to be open and honest in their own church, or are unable to even attend a mainstream church, should raise serious questions for the church. The fact that so many in the LGBTQ community don’t believe that the Christian faith includes or welcomes them is a sign of our collective failure.
As Christians we are followers of Christ. So what would Jesus do in this situation? I believe that he would welcome the LGBTQ community into his church. Jesus welcomed those who are marginalised – and in a world where many LGBTQ people are forced to set up their own churches because they feel unwelcome in mainstream churches, the LGBTQ community are marginalised.
But what does it mean to welcome the LGBTQ community? It doesn’t mean saying hello or putting ‘all welcome’ on your signage. It means much more than that. To welcome our community you need to create an environment that is safe and loving. Saying all are welcome means nothing if you deliver sermons on how evil homosexuality is. You’re not being welcoming if you don’t allow us to serve. It’s not welcoming to refuse to acknowledge someones same-sex partner or marriage, or to call a trans woman ‘he’ (or vice versa) or to do anything that makes an LGBTQ person feel marginalised or excluded.
We can’t change the past, but we can decide the future. In fact, many churches are moving towards being welcoming, loving and inclusive. That’s a great thing but we have a long way to go. I hope that Embrace Teesside will play a part in highlighting this issue amongst our churches and if I’m honest, I hope that some churches are challenged by what this site has to say. That shows that they care and want to be better.
I believe that God wants to end the isolation of the LGBTQ community and I believe that he wants to heal the divisions in his church. I hope that Embrace Teesside will be a part of that, and I invite you to join us – gay, straight, trans, bi or anything else. John 10:16 speaks of there being one flock and one shepherd. That is what I believe God wants. The divisions will end when we unite as one flock under one shepherd. The time to do that is now.