Last June, I participated in an apology campaign with LOVEboldy at Lexington’s Pride Festival. Apologizing for how the Church has treated the LGBTQ community was our aim for the day. In all honesty, I must confess that I harbored thoughts such as, “why do I have to apologize?” and “Shouldn’t someone apologize to me, also?” Yes, I am a Christian and belong to the same Church that has often discriminated against LGBTQ people. BUT, I also belong within the LGBTQ community. I, too, have experienced prejudice by the Church for my sexual orientation. I have been denied employment, laughed out, ridiculed, etc. I,too, have heard comments and jokes from the pulpit that led to my self-hatred and belief that God could not possibly love me.
WHY DO I HAVE TO APOLOGIZE?
It is now October, and I have an answer to this question. Even though I belong to the LGBTQ community, some of my actions(or lack of) and words in the past contributed to the perpetuation of bullying and discrimination of those around me.
So here are my apologies: I am talking to specific persons, but I am general in description because I want to protect the identity of those I am addressing.
To those around me during middle school: I am sorry for joking about not wanting to shower at an upcoming basketball camp because there might be lesbians. I was insecure in my own awareness that I might actually be one. I now know that there were those around me struggling with this realization, also. I am truly sorry for any pain I caused you.
To openly LGBT people in my high school:I am sorry for making fun of you for being gay. You were so brave for being yourself, and I was a coward. I am sorry for avoiding friendship with you. I didn’t want others to think I was gay, too. I honestly believe we could have been close buddies, but my fear kept me from even trying. I am sorry!
To those of you who considered me a friend during college:My first openly gay friend: I am sorry for being a terrible friend. In all honesty, I loved spending time with you. You were always kind to me, and I could tell that you cared deeply for me. I now realize that you knew all along that I struggled with my sexual orientation, but you never tried to influence me one way or the other. You went out of your way at times to help me. I am sorry for only wanting to hang out when others did not know. I am sorry when my roommates asked me where I had been because I was bubbling with happiness, and I avoided giving them your name. I only told them that I had been at a friend’s place and left it at that. I am sorry that I pretended that you were bothering me that night you came down to the laundry room to tell me that you had cooked some dinner for me. If my other friend had not been there with me, my response would have been completely different. I am truly sorry for any emotional pain I caused you.
To those around me everyday due to athletics: I am guilty of talking about and making fun of you all behind your backs because of your sexual orientation. I constantly joked at your expense. In front of you, I laughed and had fun with you, but I spread gossip about your ‘gayness‘ when you were not near me. I am so sorry for this! I used my Christian faith to tell others that you were wrong. All along I was a hypocrite. I knew I was attracted to women, but I was a coward. I did these things to you so that others would not suspect me. In reality, I envied you because you were freely being who I longed to be. Again, I am sorry!
To the girl at my Christian university: You were comfortable being who you are at school. You were looking for friends, and I wanted to be a friend to you. However, when others started talking about whether or not I was gay because I spent time with you, I bailed. I didn’t want anyone to see me talking with you on campus or anywhere else. I would give you a cold shoulder when you tried to talk to me around others. I am sorry for all of this! Although we still communicate every once and awhile and I treat you much better, I still feel ashamed of the way I treated you. I don’t even think I have apologized to you. So, please know that I am sorry for treating you like I did.
To those I taught as a substitute teacher:I am sorry for remaining silent and not responding to an incident of bullying in class that day. I just told that other student to be quiet and left things at that. I did not reprimand or say anything to the others in class who watched the whole thing happen. I should have defended you and set an example for the others who were watching to see how I would respond. I am sorry that I let you and them down. Please know that I will not be silent any longer to any form of bullying. If I find myself becoming afraid when confronting discrimination (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc.), please know I often think back to how I let you down and how I would not repeat this mistake.
To those I taught in middle school:I am sorry that I refused to discuss anything related to LGTBQ matters in the classroom. Questions were raised, but I refused to talk about it. If you were struggling with your sexuality and longed for someone to actually talk about it in class, then I am truly sorry. Please know that I am more than willing to talk with you now. All you have to do is email me. I was afraid that my coworkers and your parents would suspect me of being gay, and I didn’t want that at all.
I am sure there are many others I hurt in my past. If so, please let me know, and I am more than willing to make amends.