Folks often ask me how I’m doing. It’s a safe way of starting a conversation that won’t stall out in small talk about the weather or degenerate into a shouting match about politics.
More often than not, I tell people that I’m tired. There are multiple reasons I’m tired these days. Anxiety causes sleep to be inferior. Also, anyone with as many friendships as I find myself having has a lot of relational strain to deal with because people are people and I’m me. If you know me in person and we haven’t had it out yet, relax. We will.
The type of tired I’m thinking about today is “gay exhaustion.” This is something I find working in tandem with all the other anxiety in my life. Here’s what I think it looks like:
I’ve got an MDiv and I think about sexuality and the Bible a lot. I also don’t know of a ton of people to refer acquaintances to that are good at articulating the Bible and the sexual minority experience who are readily available. This opportunity usually falls to me.
I stood in front of a seminary class recently to talk about sexuality and the Bible. I talked about sexuality in terms of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. There were questions from the class attendees and I think it generally went well. This is not the sort of thing that causes me gay exhaustion.
What does cause this exhaustion for me is some form of 1-1 interaction. And it’s not one interaction or one person. It isn’t even a day of explaining. Rather, it’s one conversation on top of another and another and still another. It’s having the same conversation over and over. It’s explaining to someone, 1-1, that having a different name for myself doesn’t make me someone who is putting their sexuality ahead of everything else in their life—even Jesus.
I suppose I want to say that if you’re someone with questions or an ally, you might be approaching someone in your life who is just tired. It’s exhausting to explain to people what you like and why. It’s like being a Cubs fan in St. Louis. People look at you strangely and you have to defend yourself against needling. You understand how being branded excludes good conversation.
Some would think that the soultion here is simple! “Stop wearing Cubs gear in Cardinal Nation!”
But is that the right solution? It can be exhausting to wear something that is unpopular. It can also be exhausting to be assumed to be something or someone that you are not. And most days, the exhaustion feels about even.
I wish the Church were a place where this sort of exhaustion didn’t occur. I wish the Church understood what it so often proclaims, namely that the identity of Christian is so much more important than other identity markers!
But we so often make our brothers and sisters exhausted by behaving in the exact opposite manner. Instead of bearing one another’s burdens, we heap more burdens on them, making folks who didn’t vote like I did or wear the clothes I do out to be something fundamentally different.
Can’t Cardinals fans receive Cubs fans as simply different? Can’t heterosexual fans of Jesus receive their sexual minority siblings as fans who are actually rooting for the same team? Because this is exhausting. And it’s not me making it exhausting.
James Bow said:
I understand your conundrum…. particularly in the church. I have a different situation that I have to very careful who I discuss it with. One of the big issues is that so many people will project their own anxiety/fears onto you with endless questions. They don’t understand they are doing that.
What I find helpful is to set boundaries with people. Have yourself a “canned response” to the very first question that lets the them know you aren’t interested in discussing the topic further.
Yes, and I’ve been getting better about boundary-setting of late. Even had to with a good friend tonight.
The trouble is that in many ways I *am* interested in discussing the topic further…I’m just wiped out afterwards and it’s because I don’t take care of myself in the lead-up or in saying, “Yes, I can talk about that now” when maybe I need a week or two to collect myself.
I get so tired of trying to be one thing, always putting on a happy face, and knowing I will never have what others in the church seem to worship. People accept me, yet I sit in the fellowship hall alone. Expressing how I feel or my past makes people uncomfortable. I still half expect the members of the church to jump out from behind a pew and yell ‘FOOLED YOU!’. i get so tired of church at times. The pastor was skeptical of me wanting to be baptized because of my past. I wouldn’t even be there if God hadn’t directly intervened in my life with a near death experience. Why can’t I just be me and no one else?
Holy moley. This seriously breaks my heart. I hate that your motives were questioned re: baptism and I think that’s terrible pastoral care. I’m *really* sad that happened to you. Not all churches are that way. Not even all conservative-leaning churches.