I was just sitting there yesterday and wishing that we didn’t have to have the LGBTQ label set for talking about our many friends, family and cherished neighbors who identify outside the heterosexual majority or the rigid gender norms of our society. I was thinking, “What if I start putting as S along with the LGBTQ to include those of us who are straight: SLGBTQ? Would it be an understandable way to assert that we are all human and more connected in our similarity than disconnected in our differences? Does it convey our oneness?”
We use labels for some fairly justifiable reasons. Labels help us avoid confusion. Labels help us delineate between people, groups and things at times when it most matters to make useful distinctions. But we also know that labels can harm, bully and de-humanize. We have to handle labels with extreme care. As an overly privileged American white, male, Christian, clergy person, I have to be very careful and aware that my use of labels has the potential to disenfranchise people and to show gross paternalism and condescension.
I’ll still be using the LGBTQ label, and I don’t have plans at this time to try to mainstream the use of SLGBTQ. But I also want to take a moment and remind myself, out loud, that we are all humans with God-endowed dignity, value and beauty. Even as I use the LGBTQ label I reject it as a replacement for the beautiful persons, the women and men I know and love who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. I suppose I’m also a little selfish in hoping that my own value and gifts shine brighter than the S and the other labels I carry myself.
Can I ask that we all take a moment to wrap a little extra padding around our words and attitudes, a bit more of a protective coating for our neighbors and ourselves? We all have ideas, beliefs, arguments and propositions which we hope to advance in conversation and action… can we make sure that a mutuality of love and concern prefaces all of those and takes precedent over all else? Jesus connected love of neighbor with love of self, a mutuality of dignity and concern, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:34-40) Try not to see an S or an L or a G or a B or a T or a Q in front of you… see a human being, a neighbor, and love them intensely with purity and sincerity.
Day to day I need both to love and to be loved. I can’t know today if you need a reminder to love others or to love yourself. I can’t know if you need more to be reminded that you’re loved or to grow in love for others. I only know that we’re all in the same boat. I love you. Please love me. We all need love and we all need to love. Let’s not allow anything to stand in the way of either movement in our lives. Such is the work of Christ.