I Have a Gay Cousin…

and I discovered that he recently married his long time partner, so all the stuff in the news these days has come a little closer to home.

My mother has met my cousin’s partner and apparently he’s a pretty nice guy. He’s an academic, a musician, and they have a nice home where they’ve lived together for years. There’s a beautiful garden in the yard and a certain kind of domestic stability that pervades the place. Had the judge not overturned their state’s laws on marriage and given them the opportunity to wed they would still be together as they have been for years. This is their house, their place, and their life.

It’s been decades since I’ve seen my cousin and years since we’ve talked, briefly, on the phone. The last surviving member of his immediate family, I only have a picture in my head of what he looks like and mostly I remember his paintings on the walls of their cabin on the lake. The son of my dad’s older sister I can’t say we’ve ever been close. In fact I don’t recall being close to any of the family on my dad’s side of the equation. So, in some ways. there is a distance between me and the news that he had married his partner.

I know what I’m not going to do. I’m not going to ostracize. I’m not going to despise. I’m not going to yell, badger, or harass. There will be no phone calls with Bible in hand and, if by chance, we meet some time we’ll talk of old times, look at some of his paintings, and catch up on all the years gone by.

Of course its hard for me in a way, but not the way most people may think. I was part of a team that spearheaded the introduction of HIV care to a health care facility. I’ve been a health care chaplain. I’ve watched good men, witty, bright, artistic, interesting, full of life, who happened to be gay, get sick and die. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t good. It bore very little resemblance to the movie “Philadelphia”. Above all it was just sad.

The truth is that the image of a young man I cared for in tears, full of the realization that the man he looked to for love and happiness gave him an incurable illness, is stuck in my head and probably will be for the rest of my life. I see the statistics. I keep up on the health news. To be a sexual person in these United States is like running a gauntlet and for folks who identify as gay the risks are even higher. That’s not hate, just medical fact and there’s absolutely no joy or sense of “I told you so” in any of it. As a Christian I’ve given my life to helping make other people’s lives better and my heart aches in the face of human suffering. I’m glad my cousin has a steady place to be and people who care for him, as I understand it that’s not always been the case, but I also don’t want him to be another name on some quilt.

So, yes I worry a bit and pray, a lot. I cannot change anyone else. It’s enough that I struggle to change myself. I don’t have to agree with the choices other people make or the life they live as a condition for caring for them or having them as family or friends, so my door will always be open for anyone come what may. If there really is some kind of culture war to be fought I will fight it in my prayer corner and with loving service to others in confidence that God will shine His light where it is most needed.

Yes, my cousin is gay and married. But God isn’t finished with him, or me, yet.





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