What I Want You To Know About My Gay Neighbors – {Lesley Miller}

I am so very proud to call Lesley Miller my real-life friend. But even if I weren’t her friend and Redbud retreat roommate, I would be dancing on the ceiling with excitement to introduce her. And when you read this, you’ll understand why…

neighborsfence

Would you call me your friend if you knew how I felt about gay marriage? 

I never set out to make gay friends, just like I didn’t set out to not have gay friends, but growing up in a conservative area of California and then going to school at a conservative Christian college meant that in my worldview, gay people only existed on Hollywood TV shows and in places like San Francisco. All of that changed when my husband and I moved to Sacramento in 2006.

I figured my boss was gay the moment I met him. I also knew I liked him the moment I met him, which is why I signed a contract for a position at his company with no reservations. He was sharp, friendly, and believed I could do anything.

After a few weeks in my new position, it became obvious that my boss wasn’t my only gay co-worker. A few other women in the office were lesbians, and quite a few of our clients. I went from not knowing any gay or lesbian people to being surrounded by them. And it was fine. Better than fine. My co-workers were some of the nicest people I’d ever worked with. We went out to lunch together and grabbed occasional happy hour cocktails. One woman opened her home each December for a holiday party and another gave us a few pieces of free furniture when she moved homes. Together we created award-winning campaigns for our clients, and rode the waves of the economic recession.

But, there was one thing about my co-workers that terrified me. They knew I was a Christian, just like I knew they were gay, but none of them realized how I felt about same-sex relationships. They never asked, and I never brought it up, and it was better this way. Less complicated.

But then Proposition 8 (a statewide proposition to eliminate the rights of same-sex couples to marry) came up on the 2008 ballot. Around my passionately liberal office, people were plastering NO signs on their cubicle walls, attending evening marches at the Capitol, and discussing the latest polling numbers while microwaving their Lean Cuisine lunches. Gulp.

I worried that if they knew my biblical convictions about homosexuality they would question our friendship or feel unloved. I worried people in the community would call me a bigot. I wondered if I was a bigot. I fretted. I analyzed. I prayed. And I dreaded that stupid 2008 election day with all soul.

They saw me as a friend, but would they still do so if they knew my biblical convictions about homosexuality?

A few years later, my husband and I moved into our first home. It was a tiny 1948 bungalow in a charming neighborhood not far from downtown. Soon after we moved in many of our neighbors dropped by to welcome us. Imagine our surprise when we realized that the four homes closest to ours were all gay or lesbian couples.

Karen and Nancy, our direct next-door neighbors, were the kind everyone wants to have. We got to know them over Saturdays exchanging gardening tips—they were always quick to lend us their tools—and we occasionally passed platters of barbecued food over the fence for each other to try. When my husband was sick they fretted over the best dish to bring us, finally landing on a spicy chili that we devoured. Occasionally they brought by little gifts for our daughter, things found around the house or given to them by one of their students.

One winter we didn’t see much of Karen and Nancy. Karen was taking an additional teaching course and Nancy was dealing with some health issues, plus the cold weather kept us all inside so there were few opportunities to talk. They left their house in the early dark hours and weeks passed with occasional, short greetings. When the first spring weekend arrived, Karen emerged from their house with shocking news. After 11 years together they’d split up. Nancy was seeing someone else and Karen would move out within a few weeks. “I didn’t see this coming,” Karen said in tears.

Something I didn’t see coming was my own response. Me, the girl who didn’t believe in same-sex relationships, was angry and sad about their break-up.

I was sad for Karen in the same way I was sad for my friend’s parents when they divorced after 22 years of marriage. Never mind the specifics about length of time. Never mind the specifics about homosexuality. Human heartache is human heartache.

After that day, I struggled with what my emotions meant. I think a lot of people might argue my sadness was proof that my biblical convictions are wrong. I believe that my emotions are confirmation that you really can love a person even if you don’t agree with their choices.

I’ve tried to write this essay for years, but I’ve worried about what people will think or say. My former co-workers still don’t know my feelings about same-sex marriage, and neither do my neighbors. I’ve never told them my story but I’m forever grateful they told me theirs. Not only has their friendship changed my life, their bravery in sharing their convictions is giving me a similar, growing strength to tell my own. Not because I want to shove my beliefs down people’s throats, but because it’s only in telling our stories that we can love each other better.

In a nation that is growing more accepting of same-sex marriage, and less accepting of colleges, churches and non-profits who don’t believe in same-sex marriage, I wonder if we’ll ever find a middle ground. Is it even possible? I think it is. It starts at the water cooler at work and the swings on our front porches. It starts with holding our tongue sometimes and opening our ears instead. It starts with food shared across a fence and it starts with remembering that friends don’t always have to agree.

Lesley-2Lesley Miller lives in Santa Barbara, CA with her husband Jonathan and two children, Anna and Owen. She is the writer behind Barefooton45th.com and has been published on such sites as the Hello Darling blog, Her.meneutics, and InCourage.com. Lesley loves the beach (with a good book), date nights (with a Moscow Mule) and skiing (preferably on a sunny day). She hopes that her experiences and words will be an encouragement to others, and reminder they are known and loved.
Photo credit: Neighbor’s Fence, by Nikki. (Flickr Creative Commons) / image edited by Bronwyn Lea

23 thoughts on “What I Want You To Know About My Gay Neighbors – {Lesley Miller}

  1. Pingback: Guest post at Bronlea.com - Barefooton45th Barefooton45th

  2. Lesley, I just love this post. Your honesty & your bravery on a very sticky, sensitive issue in many circles, is just excellent. And you know what I love most of all, is that even if as a Christian, I hold slightly different views, you are exactly the kind of person who I would want to share my story with and I believe many feel this same way! Your writing and who you are, make you so approachable. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you, Michelle! I always, always love hearing people’s stories and convictions. Come back to SB soon so we can chat in person. Next time we’ll send the guys out with kids so we can actually have a conversation. 😉

  3. Nicely done, Lesley. One of my best friends has been married to his husband since California first allowed same sex marriage. I care deeply for my friend and his relationship with his spouse, and can’t imagine feeling otherwise. Once you’re in a friendship, it’s a friendship.

  4. Hi, Leslie,
    I am not sure that a “middle” ground is what we should be seeking. People quit looking for the cause of homosexuality sometime in the 1950s when psychiatry mostly could not cure the condition (one or two notable doctors claimed that their version of talk therapy was effective) and decided, therefore, that it must be OK because it was untreatable. They dropped homosexuality from the list of behaviors called “mental illness.” The psychiatric profession did not take the same view of other aberrant behavior, but society in general was anxious to change the behavior of schizophrenics and some others with seriously aberrant behavior and the development of drugs was convenient for several reasons. It is now clear that those drugs do more harm than good, but they can suppress behavior (without healing). However, psychology has quietly gone ahead with certain kinds of research with gays and has learned, among other things, that a very high majority of gays and lesbians are left-handed. That fact also is true of schizophrenics and of bipolars. It turns out that research into hearing, initiated in France by Dr. Alfred Tomatis in the 1950s, discovered the cause of left-handedness: weakness in the right ear. And I discovered that a simplified version of the Tomatis Method healed our son’s schizophrenia. Ear stimulation has healed bipolarity, dyslexia, and depression, also. And epilepsy and Meniere’s disease. Other symptoms thought of as discrete illnesses also disappear following ear treatment, such as IBS and eczema. If you put together the information that is available from these research sources, you find that most (probably not all, because homosexuals and lesbians can be seductive and predatory towards others with different weaknesses) homosexuality is caused by audio-processing deficits in the right ear that prevent the child from developing strong left-brain dominance over their right-brain emotions. This condition can be treated by exposing the ear to gently amplified high-frequency sound, i.e., classical violin music, which strengthens the tiny, pivotal muscle in the middle right ear that controls the volume of high-frequency sound reaching the left-brain. The political climate surrounding homosexuality has changed dramatically over the past 40 years through strong lobbying by gays and their supporters. Almost no one is looking for a cause any longer because most people don’t care enough to search the literature. And gays most certainly don’t care to change now that they are so broadly supported. Nevertheless, the weak right ear that causes low left-brain dominance (the left-brain is the seat of learning including the learning of self-control and a rational belief system) could be treated, most easily and effectively in childhood. And that exposure to music would prevent children from developing mental illnesses, including homosexual tendencies. I find it remarkable how little interested evangelical Christians are in exploring this science. Do evangelicals distrust science per se? Or are they so preoccupied with scripture itself that they don’t look for contemporary supports for Biblical wisdom?

    I have seen enough of the outcomes of “mature” homosexuality to notice the harm to children raised in those households, which also is abhorrent to God and to anyone who cares about kids. Some of those children are old enough to speak out, if they haven’t also inherited their parents’ weak ear muscles, in which case they are merely victims of their twisted parenting. Please do not mistake my comments for intolerance, ill will, or “homophobia.” My first boyfriend became gay and a prominent, successful neurologist. One of our children is lesbian. One of our son’s godfather is gay. I knew many gays during my career in theater and worked congenially with several in other job contexts. I am in favor of cordial relations. Where younger gays are interested in healing, I am strongly supportive of healing. It is hard to imagine older gays finding the motivation to seek healing because the activation of any primal urge in connection with habit becomes addiction. But I encourage people to inform themselves about this preventable condition. Music heals mental illness if you know how to apply it; and I have provided the neurological explanation of how that happens for anyone who is interested.

    • Hi Laurna, as always I appreciate the time you put into crafting careful replies, but I’m not sure your reply reflects the heart of what Lesley was saying. Even if she was fully persuaded and knowledgeable about the effect of ears on behavior, that would not have bridged the relational gap she felt between herself and her coworkers and neighbors, for whom an unsolicited diagnosis of their ‘condition’ would have been unwelcome at best, and deeply offensive at worst. I understood her post to be a call to love beyond what we understand or endorse, rather than a call to moral middle ground. (And p.s. I am busy reading your book!)

      • Thank you for the Grace you extend to me here, Bronwyn and Lesley. I certainly wasn’t suggesting Lesley or anyone else should evangelize her co-workers with my ear-brain paradigm, although I have talked about it to a few gays (not to couples in the same relationship). In fact, I think it would be cruel to suggest that older gay couples ought to change their neurology and I actually warned a gay priest away from amplified music because of the possibility of it derailing him mentally and destroying his already suicidal partner. I absolutely agree that love is paramount and I honour the love in gay relationships even if it is (as I think) a severely compromised type of love. However, our love as Christians needs to be scientifically informed or it is likely to become mere sentimentality that will be outshouted or outwept by the gays, as it already largely has been in the public arena. We have some cutting-edge science here to back up the biblical position.

  5. Wonderful words for a difficult dilemma. I grew up in a conservative Christian home with the expected beliefs and values. When a dear loved family member revealed that they were in a gay relationship – what was my response? For me, it can’t change how I love them. It doesn’t change their value in the eyes of Christ. In fact, it has taught me a great deal about judgements and HEARTS! I posted a similar blog on my site several years ago and was quite devastated actually by the response I received from several Christian friends – my faith and my character was called into judgement because I expressed compassion for individuals! I feel limited in my responses now without entering into cliches or agreeing to pronounce sin! So I am cheering you on for your hearts response … Christ loved! It is the greatest commandment. In a much shorter response – I LOVE your post!

  6. Hi Lesley,
    I loved so much about your post, and it inspires me to be more gracious and non judgemental. One thing that did sadden me though, was that you knew their story, but you never got to share yours. Not about what you believe about same sex marriage or gay relationships, but about what Jesus has done for you in your life. We are all saved from the same sin and selfishness, and you also have a story of redemption to tell. This does smack a little of insincerity and lack of courage. There has to come a time in true friendships when we can become vulnerable with our own lives. Unfortunately yours with your gay colleagues and neighbors were a little one-sided as far as vulnerability goes.

    • Sue, Lesley gave us a what is obviously a very small snapshot view of her relationship with her friends. For you to assume she is insincere and lacked courage is just unfairly jumping to conclusions that are unsupported by her post.

  7. Beautiful, Lesley, just beautiful. There is power in sharing these stories. What we are all longing for is for someone to exemplify the love Christ has for each of us—thank you for bravely sharing your story.

  8. such a great post Lesley. I coached high school soccer with a woman who was a lesbian, and very much so enjoyed her company (and her partner!). I know she knew I was a Christian and probably didn’t “approve” of her lifestyle choices, but we chose not to get into debates and just enjoyed being friends. I definitely think the church has failed miserably in the general commandment to LOVE your neighbor, regardless of beliefs, gender, race, political leanings or sexual orientation. instead they have chosen to go to war in an attempt to force unbelievers to live according to our beliefs. so sad.

    • YES! War is a good word for how many evangelicals are treating our homosexual neighbors, friends, co-workers, etc. Thanks for taking time to comment.

  9. Oh my goodness. I get it. I have been struggling with this fear of what my cousin would think if he knew my views. He has been married to his husband for almost as long as I have been married to mine. We are moving closer to them and I love him so much. I long to be in relationship with both of them – and I am conservative on homosexuality. It is never easy to be in relationship, but better than not being in relationship. Thank you for writing this. I understand why it took years – soooo complicated. It’s beautiful.

  10. I will be praying for you, Leah, that you can be brave in sharing your own beliefs while meeting them, and loving them, in theirs.

  11. Point taken, Tim. Thank you. I think Lesley’s main point is that of loving before we have the right to speak, and that is an on going learning. Loving people without hooks is an on going challenge for many of us. Sorry Lesley if I jumped to conclusions. Your post was very inspiring.

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  13. I found your post through Googling.

    I loved this post, but would like to add a point. Many in the LGBT community (that I know) equate accepting same-sex marriage as equivalent to accepting them and their relationships. However, these are things we can tease apart. That might be a way to find a “middle ground.” Accepting the relationship and accepting the legal recognition of that relationship are two different things.

    Given that, truly listening to what it means to be LGBT in this society has a place, too. Imagine the worry that someone will quietly not give you a job, or feel a little less inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt because of who you are. Though legal recognition of a relationship is not necessary nor sufficient to removing these subtle prejudices (or worry of them), it does ascribe credibility toward taking on a more accepting nature.

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