In Use your God Tools I stated that “investing in relationship is the most valued emotional real estate for postmoderns.” I would add that the same is true for LGBT people. In today’s post, I want to explore some of the needs of those who fully embrace their sexual or gender identity. Consider this thought from my friend and hero of the faith Ricky Chelette: “Same-sex attractions are a result of meeting legitimate needs in an illegitimate way.”
Ricky also identifies three key needs that all people have, but when left unmet growing up, can impact how we perceive ourselves: Attention . . . Affection . . . Affirmation (“The Three A’s”). I would add that perception plays a huge role in forming our identity from an early age. In a recent white paper I contributed to with Sue Bohlin (titled Equipping Women to Minister to Same-Sex Attracted Women), Sue states this about the three A’s: “God creates us all with the legitimate need to be noticed, loved and celebrated for who we are . . . The good news of the gospel includes the news that God can meet these needs through the body of Christ.” She goes on to help us grow in our ability to instill the three A’s in other people’s lives.
Attention: Reassure your friend or loved one that they are not invisible and that they matter to you. Listen to what makes your friend tick. It is about seeing who they really are, what is important to them, and having a genuine interest in their lives. If possible, be there for them at important events.
Affection: Express your affection for them both verbally and physically. Tell them you love them and what you appreciate about them. Send cards and texts with healthy, God-honoring expressions of affection. Hugs (after receiving permission), gentle touches on the arm, high fives, and nicknames go miles in building the connection.
Affirmation: Communicate how much you value them as a person. Validate their feelings, skills and gifts. Notice when they accomplish a goal, and tell them how proud you are of them.
Both Ricky and Sue point out that people who struggle with or have same-sex attractions historically feel “other than” — that they don’t belong to the world of those of their gender, like they’re on the outside looking in. From my own life experience, I felt “other than” from my childhood forward. In our paper, we add a fourth “A” to the mix.
Acceptance: Help your friend or family member know that they are one of the girls or guys. Be the one to break down the “other than” barrier. Let them know you want to include them in your friendships with other members of the same gender, in activities they will feel comfortable participating in. I personally have benefited from women who were courageous enough to include me in their lives and make me feel like I belonged in the world of ever straight women.
A word of caution here: It’s not about overpowering the tom-girl with girlie-girl things, or the sensitive-souled guy with rough and tumble activities. It is about making them feel like a part of a world they typically don’t fit in. It can be as simple as going to dinner or taking a trip to the park with a group of same-sex friends or family members. Those who embrace their sexual or gender identity are no different from anyone else — they long to belong!
Jesus modeled this healthy form of inclusion when he was willing to sit down to a meal with sinners and the social outcasts of the day. He demonstrated what it was like to build healthy same-sex relationships when he invested three years of His earthly life with His twelve disciples. It’s all about relationship. As I just mentioned, connecting with other women in a healthy, non-threatening way has been very beneficial to my healing and growth as a woman and a Christian. I have been given the gift of healing from deep-seated wounds surrounding my sexuality and gender by building healthy Christ-centered relationships with other women.
As I began my journey of faith as a person who presented to the world as a butch lesbian, it was downright intimidating to me to interact with Christian women. After all, I thought all Christian women were only interested in being wives and mothers, crowned with tiaras and robed in pink. Boy was I wrong! I have since discovered that there is a wide range of feminine and masculine expression that God has created men and women with. We will cover that in an upcoming post on overcoming perceptions.
Be encouraged friends — you have the capacity to give the gift of the 4 As to your LGBT friends and family members.
Pray with me: Lord, we ask that you would give us wisdom and understanding as we continue to build relationships with our LGBT friends and family.
Thanks for following my journey,