No greater agony, the untold story
June 9, 2015
In memory of my friend, “Luke”
Recently I found out that a friend of mine from high school, someone I knew over thirty-five years ago, passed away not so long ago. We were close friends in high school, mainly because we did not fit in with other groups of our peers. Neither of us were jocks, or overly brilliant, or cool enough to be part of the various cliques in high school, and so we found a kinship in our ostracism. One day, I decided that I was going to tell “Luke” that I was gay. It was a deep secret that I had hidden inside of me, never telling anyone. Since we were both seniors in high school at the time, soon to be off to out of state colleges, I thought that I could risk telling my best friend that I was attracted to other guys. Luke was not someone I was attracted to, but thought that he might also be gay, and so I risked it. I got the shock of my life, when he told me that he thought that there was something wrong with me. He then threatened to go immediately and tell my parents what I had said. I panicked, and with the best acting I could possibly muster up at the moment, tried to laugh the entire thing off as a big joke. I am not sure if he bought it, but it certainly bought me freedom from any embarrassment or ill treatment from my parents.
We did not communicate much after graduating from high school; we drifted apart as many teenagers do. Imagine my surprise when decades later I found out that Luke was also gay and had a life partner for many years, and that they were together until Luke died. Luke must have known that he was gay when I told him I was. Why did he not tell me about himself as well? Why did he threaten to out me to my parents, which in the mid-seventies, in a home with religious European parents, was no idle threat. What thoughts were going through his mind, what fear did he have, unable to tell his best friend that he also shared same the secret? What did he think would happen if he revealed to me the untold story that he held deeply inside?
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” This is a quote from a work by Maya Angelou, the great writer who won critical acclaim for her 1969 work “I know why the caged bird sings”, which includes the heart wrenching true story of Maya being raped as a child. There are unfortunately many of us who are in agony because we hold untold stories deep inside of us. Whether it is as criminal and frightening as a child being raped by a family member, or being afraid to tell your best friend that you are gay, the agony of not revealing the truth can be excruciating and have long lasting, negative implications upon a person’s mental, emotional, spiritual and even physical well being. To bear an untold story can indeed be a great agony.
Many LGBT Orthodox Christians find themselves with a story to tell and yet we deeply agonize over telling our story. While it is difficult to tell our parents, family, and friends the story of who we are, the faithful Orthodox Christian must also wrestles with telling his/her spiritual father and the members of their church community. While many sections of society are becoming more knowledgeable and accepting of gay people, as recently demonstrated by the vote to allow same-sex marriage in “very Catholic” Ireland, there are still vast segments of people, groups and governments who malign and demonize us. It has been the practice, and remains the policy of the Orthodox Church to hurt and reject LGBT persons. And while we are witnessing a small, but seismic shift in the tone, language, and actions of the Roman Catholic Church towards LGBT persons, unfortunately no such gesture or shift in tone or language about LGBT persons can be discerned from the Orthodox hierarchy. While groups such as Dignity cater to LGBT Roman Catholics, and some Catholic bishops and theologians have called for greater understanding of LGBT persons and their story, there is no safe place for LGBT Orthodox Christians to tell the untold story inside of them. Instead of revealing their truth to their parish priest, to the members of the parish where they worship, to those they sing in the choir with, to those they serve on the parish board with, they either distance themselves from Christ’s holy Church or remain isolated; not the goal of a Christ-centered community. Who ultimately bears responsibility for creating such an atmosphere of fear and retribution of dishonesty and agony? The entire Church bears responsibility.
The untold story within the Church is that the vast majority of bishops, priests and faithful are ignorant in the areas of neurobiology and gender science, and lack compassion and humility in what they do not know. Priests who have little to no training in these delicate matters find themselves following their own uninformed prejudices. But perhaps those truly responsible are the numerous bishops, priests and faithful, who have family members and friends who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, and know firsthand that we are not people who are rebelling against God’s created order, but ordinary people, created by God. Chosen by Him to be as different as those with different eye color or dominant handedness, wanting to love and be loved by someone special and live our lives in peace and harmony with all.
I would encourage LGBT Orthodox to trust in the Lord and their fellow brothers and sisters and tell their untold story. However, the “silent sympathizers”, our friends and family members must also take the leap of faith and tell the bishops, priests and lay leaders of the Church that a dialogue of acceptance and understanding must begin. Otherwise we all remain in agony, the gay Orthodox because we can’t tell our story, and the majority of Orthodox, who will always be incomplete without their LGBT brothers and sisters.
 Rainbow in the Cloud, the Wisdom and Spirit of Maya Angelou. Random House Press, New York, 2014, pg. 51.
 For example, see The New York Times, “At the Vatican, a shift in tone towards gays and divorce.” October 13, 2014
 For example, see the recent remarks by Cardinal Marx, Father Thomasset Alain and Father Eberhard Schockenhoff. Yet, for a reality check, the Catholic bishop of Oyo, Nigeria, Emmanuel recently compared gay people to drug addicts, robbers and terrorists. https://newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com/category/synod-2015/
 Although not directly on the topic of administering to the LGBT community, see the writings of Father Sergei Sveshnikov on the matter of ill-equipped parish priests. https://frsergei.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/study-notes-call-no-man-a-father/
 See the recent hysterical “epistle” by the Orthodox Clergy Association of Houston and Southeast Texas http://orthodoxhouston.blogspot.com/2015/05/gay-marriage-and-houston-gay-rights.html