The Importance of Language
Words kill, words give life;they’re either poison or fruit - you choose.Proverbs 18:21, The Message
Because they do, I believe we have to choose what we say carefully. Especially to our LGBT+ brothers and sisters. Especially those we might find in the church.
Let me share some personal stories to illustrate how innocent words can inadvertently cause harm and damage, sometimes, irreparable.
Throwback to June 2013 when I was at the last Exodus International Conference in California.
I was having lunch and chatting with a middle aged Caucasian lady (everyone was extremely friendly there) and she was telling me about why she was at the conference - her son is gay. She asked me why, and I gave my standard answer, that I struggle with same-sex attraction. She then went on to say, “So, when did you leave that lifestyle?”
Being the naive Singaporean girl, I answered her earnestly, “Actually, I’ve never been in that lifestyle……” and went on to share my story.
Looking back, that was one of the few things about that conference that stuck with me. For good reason. Even for a mother that was pretty aware (hey, she was attending an ex-gay conference man, she’s got that going for her), she could still ask about the “lifestyle” I was purportedly in was saying a lot.
There is no “gay lifestyle” my friends. Some people might be promiscuous, but aren’t some heterosexuals promiscuous too? LGBT+ folks are just like regular folks, some are monogamous like you, and some are celibate like me. Please stop using the word “lifestyle” when describing us.
As I was at a get together with some good friends and were just having some casual conversation, a particularly well-educated friend of mine referred to someone as being “tranny”.
I didn’t say anything, being too shocked for words.
I couldn’t articulate how I felt but looking back at how this incident is imprinted in my mind, I realised that even if someone is quite understanding towards gays and lesbians, one can still make derogatory remarks about trans folks and not be aware of how it affects me too.
I can’t bring myself to tell him about it, but let’s just say that if I fell for someone who’s trans, he’s not gonna the first person I’ll be sharing the news with. If ever.
Words matter man.
After a period of praying and thinking, I gathered up my courage to confide in someone and shared that I thought God was okay with me in a same-sex relationship. Over email - which is not the best medium to hold such a sensitive conversation.
I was surprised when I was lobbed with Leviticus 18:22 in her reply.
I felt like an abomination.
If not for the fact that we shared years of friendship, the relationship would probably have dissolved.
Please take note, nothing of the sort had happened yet. I wasn’t in a relationship and I wasn’t about to sleep with anyone. I just expressed my honest opinion and she hers.
Thank goodness I didn’t dwell on it. But that email stuck with me all these years later and today, even though I still count her as a good friend, she would definitely not be the first person I confide in regarding LGBT+ issues. Just because I have been scarred so badly.
Please, please, please do not throw Scripture at people.
Now I must concede, perhaps when I was behaving exuding pride like nobody’s business, this same person could have quoted Proverbs 6:16-17, I might have felt that that Leviticus verse was justified. But hey, when I was being an prideful prick, I was just counselled politely, if firmly, on why I should be kind to the fellow Christian I didn’t particularly care for.
It seems like I’m not alone in this.
Why the double standards?
Yes, the Bible did mention that we are supposed to save our brothers and sisters from destruction. But to make them feel like they are an abomination? Is that the way to do it? Did Jesus make the woman at the well feel like an abomination or did he save her from death by stoning by religious Pharisees that condemned her for adultery with him telling her only to “Go, and sin no more.”
Where is the love?
Do you begin to see how words matter?
Now for a happy story.
There was once I was feeling rather disordered for being gay.
After being burnt so badly so many times, I decided to take my chances and share with a trusted friend (who is not one of the above-mentioned).
She reassured me that I am not disordered by am "fearfully and wonderfully made by God.” She told me that “I was whole and complete, not disordered."
I must say that I’ve got her to thank for not ending up like Leelah Alcorn.
If only more people would have this last friend of mine, the suicide rate for LGBT+ folks would probably not be 4 - 6 times more than the average.
That’s all I have to say.
“It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.”- Billy Graham