I currently work at a secular place, which for better or worse is unusual for me. Since I was in 7th grade, I’ve been inundated in Christian environments. I went to a Christian junior high. I went to a Christian high school. I went to a Christian college. Last summer, I worked in a non-Christian place, but our job was so intense that there wasn’t much socializing.
So this has been a change of environment for me. And there has been a drastic difference with how my coworkers interact with homosexuality than with how students on Wheaton’s campus interacted with it. I’ve had to adjust and be flexible with how I talk about my homosexuality and homosexuality in general without compromising my beliefs. I know that some of our readers are used to these differences, but for those who have been exposed to mainly conservative Christian environments (like me), I figured it would be helpful for me to expound on my experiences.
Those who are gay are very casual about it. I work with four gay male coworkers. I’m not used to people being so open that they’re gay. I mentioned to a coworker, whom I suspected was gay but didn’t have any confirmation yet, that I planned on moving to a different suburb. His response was, “Oh, my boyfriend lives there.”
I was taken so aback by how casually he said this. It was sort of like, “of course I have a boyfriend, duh.”
Because of my surprise, I responded with “wait, your WHAT lives there?!”
Another gay coworker happened to overhear the entire conversation and burst out laughing when he heard me say this. I was almost embarrassed by how surprised I reacted, and I had to explain myself in case they were wondering if I had a “problem” with it. It probably helped that they suspected I was gay too, so they didn’t suspect that I had any offensive undertones to my reaction.
I’ve only actually admitted that I am gay to a few coworkers, and it’s interesting that when I have, I am very hesitant about it. I tend to say it in a hush tone and make sure that only the person whom I’m speaking with can hear me. Because I feel safe as a gay person at work, I have concluded that this hesitancy to out myself is likely residue from my experience at Wheaton and other Christian environments in general. At Wheaton, I was always careful with whom I told and attempted to do so inconspicuously because I never wanted any potential unsafe person to overhear.
Those who are not gay at my workplace are very relaxed about there being gay people. It isn’t a big deal to them. And the few people whom I’ve told have told me that they already knew before I told them. This isn’t because someone else told them; it’s simply because they can sense it from the way that I interact with women and men (or also perhaps from some of my mannerisms). People here understand that gay people exist, and they notice it. My experience in Christian circles has been for most people to assume that no one is gay, and thus, most people don’t go out of their way to be sensitive to this.
It’s refreshing for people here to just accept me this way and not be surprised by it. I haven’t felt the slightest judgment whatsoever. In fact, I mentioned to one of the guys that it’s not something that I really bring up to people unless it’s pertinent to the conversation, and he said, “yeah, I completely understand; I mean, I don’t tell people that I’m straight when I meet them, so why should you feel pressured to tell people that you’re gay.” This statement made me feel like an equal with him — like he attempted to understand my perspective.
My experience here has made me feel more accepted and comfortable than I ever have in Christian places. I’m talking about at an organizational level. I don’t go to work feeling guarded about my sexuality. When I’m in Christian environments, I feel guarded. Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have been blessed with Christian friends who don’t make me feel guarded and who provide intimate fellowship that I can’t find among non-Christians. But despite of this, I still feel guarded within Christian groups.
This experience helps me understand why LGBT people would not turn to the Church for their community but rather secular environments. The acceptance in this secular environment, at least related to my sexuality, is overwhelming. (I’m not saying a secular environment is more accepting as a whole because there are definitely other areas where there is less acceptance but with sexuality differences, there is definitely more acceptance). I know there are people who will never turn to the Church as long as the Church does not condone same-sex marriages, but since I don’t even espouse to same-sex marriages and still feel more accepted (in regards to my homosexuality) in a secular environment, this tells me that there is a problem with the Church.
I guess the question for the Church is how do we make people feel valued and accepted but yet also be faithful to Truth? I know we have many things that we can learn from non-Christians, and I will be vigilant in the upcoming weeks to observe what specific behaviors from my coworkers make me feel comfortable with them.
I also ask for your prayers because I haven’t actually attempted to explain to anyone yet that I am chaste and don’t plan on ever acting on my gay attractions. They all assume that I will have a boyfriend (or could have a boyfriend). I will attempt to explain this to some of them when the timing feels right, and I feel like it will lead to productive fruit. I also know that it will be a very strange conversation and will seriously confuse the heck out of some of them. It also has the potential to offend some of my gay coworkers, but hopefully I can build enough trust with them before I share this so they aren’t automatically on the defensive.
I’d love it if some of you commented on your experiences with how secular versus Christian environments have interacted differently with homosexuality.