THE LGBT COMMUNITY: Mathematical certainties don't change
The words still chill me. I don’t often leave movies quoting a script, but I may never forget this line.
The movie was “Titanic;” I knew how the story ended, and it still rocked my world. After the iceberg, reports started coming in to the captain and his officers, who were meeting on the bridge. Unrolling the schematics he knew so well and taking note of the reports being delivered, the ship’s designer studied a brief moment and then said in a sobering tone as cold as the dark North Atlantic, “It is a mathematical certainty. She will sink.”
Something about the starkness, the mathematical precision of his knowing, the certainty of the epic tragedy that was about to unfold still strikes fear in my heart.
It is with the same certainty that I celebrate the change overtaking our nation. We’re not headed for tragedy, quite the opposite, though I have no doubt there are rough waters ahead. They say it’s always darkest before the dawn. The tide has turned, however, there’s no stemming this flow. History reaches its tipping points, and we have arrived, with a mathematical certainty.
During my senior year at CHS a friend and fellow band mate left school unexpectedly, unexplained. I’ve never seen him since. Some days later a teacher whispered, “He moved in with… a man.” I didn’t know he was gay (I barely knew what that meant), though the truth is that I had plenty of gay friends – I just didn’t know it at the time. So hushed was our understanding, some of them didn’t know they were gay either.
Looking back, I know there were others. You had those friends, too. We whispered, laughed, used rude words, but we all had friends, neighbors, co-workers, family members. There was that old maid aunt and her “roommate” and Uncle Billy who, strangely, “just never found the right woman to settle down with.” They were there, in every small, southern hometown that didn’t know any better; they worshipped in every church; they were born to every family.
And it is a mathematical certainty that we are not going back to the blissful, baleful ignorance of my high school days.
As they always have been, our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender friends and neighbors, co-workers, colleagues and church members are with us. And they are normal people, just like you and I.
If we can be honest for just a moment we will have to know that these good folks haven’t chosen a “lifestyle.” You know as I do that they are who they have always been. I didn’t choose. You didn't choose. They didn’t either.
When the NC General Assembly passed its now-infamous “House Bill 2,” that so-called “bathroom bill” which cost North Carolina billions of dollars in economic development and tourist dollars and an incalculable amount of respect, I wrote a letter to our governor. A few weeks later our Administrative Assistant said, “The man on the phone says he’s the Governor of NC.”
It was, and we talked for a half-hour. When he finished his scriptedly-smooth tirade against the manipulations of the Human Rights Commission, the agenda of the liberal left, the political calculations of the Charlotte City Council, when I could finally squeeze a word in edge-wise I told him that I didn’t care about the politics, and never doubted there was partisanship involved. (There might be some on both sides.) But that was never my concern with HB2. It still isn’t, even after a politically-expedient compromise that has “repealed” HB2.
My concern, then and now is the people. It’s not politics. It’s not partisanship. It’s people. I care about LGBT people – the fathers and mothers, the sons and daughters, the neighbors and church members, friends, and family.
It’s people, not politics.
And, with mathematical certainty, they are not going away. They are too real, too human, too much a vital part of us. Their identity and legitimacy are now ensconced in our jurisprudence; their worth as ordinary folk is now felt openly in nearly every community; their uniqueness as children of God is now valued by houses of faith across the land. We are not going back.
The math is certain. All that counts now is your compassion.
(Dr. Russ Dean graduated from Clinton High School and co-pastors Park Road Baptist Church with his wife Rev. Amy Jacks Dean, also from Clinton.)