By Samantha Stevens*
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Heeding the call to love others in the way that Christ loves us can be challenging. Yet among men and women who experience same-gender attraction, there often seems to be deep and extraordinary capacity to love and empathize. Among them, I have seen men lending love and compassion to other men in times of sadness or trial. I have seen women sharing laughter and tears. And I have witnessed these men and women reaching out to each other to offer support and love in person as well as in the virtual online community. There are moments when there is no doubt that these men and women are, indeed, disciples of Jesus.
There is something else I’ve noticed, however, as I spend time with both men and women who are same-sex attracted. I often sense a subtle current of aversion to the opposite sex. It’s generally not overt, and sometimes difficult to detect, but it seems to carry the unspoken message that their lives would be better, easier, less complicated, or more enjoyable if it were devoid of opposite-sex interactions. At times when I mention this phenomenon, my words have been countered by statements from men who insist they adore their mothers, grandmothers, sisters and other female friends, and in a lesser degree from women who were Dad’s best buddy, or who have “wonderful” relationships with brothers or ex-husbands.
This is a difficult subject to discuss, because some available data suggest it’s valuable for same-sex oriented men to develop healthy male relationships and fewer platonic relationships with women, and which also directs same-sex oriented women toward healthier relationships with other women. Add to that the number of men and women who have experienced abuse in some form from a member of the opposite sex, and the subtle currents of opposite gender disdain begin to make sense.
As I’ve pondered this phenomenon, I’m struck by the fact that the first two people on earth—created in the image of God—were of opposite genders. God didn’t say to Adam, “Here are a few guys for you to hang out with to fill your emotional needs,” or to Eve, “I know you’re a little more verbal than Adam, so here are some girl pals to chat with and accompany you when you need to go to the women’s restroom.” Instead he placed a man and a woman on earth and said, “These are the basic rules. You two figure things out together.” In all of God’s plans and designs is the duality and integration of gender. And while God’s direction here to Adam and Eve pertained to the marriage relationship, I believe there are principles that translate to all relationships.
The truth is that each person has a need for nurturing from both genders. This need may diminish as one grows to adulthood—or it may not. Individuals are unique in their emotional needs and dynamics. Some may need more male nurturing, others more female nurturing, but it’s important to realize that regardless of our perceived need for others, our respect for both genders must remain intact. Stereotyping, dismissal, and contempt toward one gender or the other diminishes us. We need both genders, and treating one gender disrespectfully reduces our own self-respect and esteem. Inwardly, we are aware that we are trying to elevate ourselves at the expense of another and that we are disregarding God’s edict that in His eyes, all are the same.
I have always had men in my life, on my own terms and at a distance (with my husband as a notable exception). In the past two years I have opened myself up to allowing more close interactions with both men and women outside of my family. It has been difficult, to say the least, but infinitely rewarding. I still struggle with intimacy on all levels, but I understand more clearly God’s wisdom in placing man and woman on the earth to work as a team as I allow myself to experience these deep friendships. We share a spiritual kinship which, if Heavenly Father’s plan comes to fruition (as it will), will bind us together with Him for eternity.
About two years ago I met one of the kindest, gentlest young men I have ever encountered. I believe he was placed in my life because at that time, we needed the friendship that each could offer. He was experiencing stress as he tried to make sense of his life and come to terms with same-sex feelings. The stress in my own life was increasing as I sought to deal with issues of past sexual abuse while keeping my same-sex feelings at bay, and nurturing my marriage and family relationships. I offered him a safe place to talk and understanding of his situation in a way that others who loved him could not. He offered me an example of a man who would love me unconditionally, and who would never hurt me. Together we worked to help heal inner agonies and to build and maintain a healthy friendship which remains strong today. I love him dearly and cannot imagine life without him.
This year, as part of my quest to heal from my past, I made a plan to have lunch with my cousin, who molested me as a young girl. I wanted to see him from an adult perspective, to help me understand that I need no longer fear him. When I discussed these plans with another same-sex attracted friend, he let me know that he would be accompanying me to visit with my cousin, and that he would be spending the rest of the afternoon with me, just in case I needed some extra support after such an experience. I didn’t believe I needed him, but because I enjoy spending time with him, I agreed. As it turns out, I maintained my composure throughout the meal but later, when I was alone with my friend, I lost control and had great need of him. Because he knows me well, he was aware that this would probably happen and loved me enough to take time from his personal schedule to be with me when I needed him.
There are so many others who have been involved in my life in the past couple of years; men and women who have loved me, shown me compassion, given advice, and been truly Christlike in their treatment of me. I am certain that my journey to healing would be nowhere close to where it is today if I were walking alone. In addition, when I needa more “removed” audience ,these men and women have been able to help me in ways that my husband or family could not, being so close to my situation. I have almost always been able to turn to one of those friends who have shown me that I am safe in my love and trust in them. And I have been incredibly blessed to have access to both men and women as I work to find peace.
My hope is that as women attracted to women, we will not only understand that we need each other, but that it’s paramount to balance our sisterly relationships with complimentary interactions with men, and that cultivating friendships with them will not only help us understand ourselves, but might also contribute to healing some the hurts that many of us carry inside. My further hope is that same-sex attracted men will understand the importance and place that women have in their lives—not as “pals” or temporary distraction, nor as objects to be put aside when something or someone more interesting comes along—but as true friends who can stand by them in any instance. When we deal with men and women who do not experience same-sex attraction, there is often the added complication that they might perceive what we wish to be a platonic relationship, as a romantic one. We owe it to those we love to be honest. Let them know of our hopes, needs, and expectations. Be empathetic if they feel hurt that their feelings for us are different from our feelings for them. Help them understand their importance to us and our need for their love and respect.
We need each other. If God intended us to travel the path back to Him alone, He would have created a planet for each of us. But instead, He threw us together on earth with our human frailties and shortcomings and said to us, just as He said to Adam and Eve, “Okay—these are the basic rules, now you need to figure out how to live together and love each other.” And even though I’m paraphrasing, I think it’s interesting that He allows us to decide how to implement His instructions, and for each of us it will be different. I have been incredibly blessed in my friendships with wonderful men and women. I’m still learning how to navigate the intricacies of trust and devotion, but I recognize how those friendships bless my life in innumerable ways and, ultimately, help to bring me back to my Heavenly Father. My hope is that in time, we will all see each other as God sees us—no respecter of race, religion, orientation, or gender—but simply as His children. “…male and female created I them…” “in the image of my Only Begotten…” (Moses 2:27)
* Samantha Stevens is a pen name chosen by the author. Occasionally, contributors may choose to use pen names for personal or professional reasons. In such cases, North Star will so indicate upon publication.