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An Open Letter To My Southern Friends And Family

(Jack Criss/Publisher’s note: I first met Perry Stevens when we worked together at Newstalk 1180 WJNT in Pearl, MS in the late 80s. Perry was not only a consummate radio news professional he was also a good friend. I was very honored to reconnect with him on Facebook after many years of our losing touch.
 
I’m publishing below an essay of Perry’s concerning his homosexuality which I thought was a good fit for a BAMSouth.com editorial: we do not, and never will, shy away from any topic be it conservative, liberal, libertarian or otherwise. We encourage open thought and welcome intelligent opinions from all. Hence, Mr. Stevens editorial below.)

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This column feels necessary for me to write.

If you’re real, if you’re true, if you’re uncritically committed to the words of Christ, I submit that you must re-think a few abominable thoughts.

If you ever asked, “Who would Jesus omit/punish/whip/degrade/ exclude/deny/ vilify/reject/be separate from,” then you need to re-read the Gospels. These ideas are not based on the Bible.

My Jesus accepts all and excludes none. If your Jesus doesn’t do that, then perhaps we have different Jesuses. Mine is the one of the Gospels.

Sure, we are bound to disagree on a few specifics, but the all-encompassing love of God will allow us to sort out these differences soon enough. In the meantime, just strive to be good! Don’t be mean! Be accepting. Express a little compassion, even in the face of fear or ignorance. In short, don’t be a jerk and then try to attribute your attitude to the Lord. He doesn’t work that way.

Love your neighbor as yourself, and (I ask on behalf of all my gay/lesbian brothers and sisters), please remember that we are among your friends, neighbors, and, likely, your families, even. We’re not aliens, we’re not “other.”

We are those of you who realized with dread at some point in our early lives that we were different, and we’ve been scared ever since that you were going to hurt/exclude/despise/cast us out or otherwise marginalize us because of it. That takes an unimaginable toll.

This column must be scary to read for some of my straight friends, so just try to imagine how frightening it is for your lesbian/gay family members who need to come out but don’t feel safe enough to do so. Some of them are still sweet and innocent children. They won’t know till years from now how scary their lives might become. You might well know their path before they do. Please think of that as a gift. If you don’t see it this way, their chances of suicide are much higher than straight teens. This isn’t an opinion but a fact. We should never allow ourselves to get to this point—never.

Prepare yourself, just in case, because we all desire to love and protect our most beloved kinfolk. The statistics indicate that nearly everybody who lives to a certain age will find themselves in a position to sound off on this issue regarding a family member. I beg that you are willing to be kind and understanding and honest about all that is you know— and don’t know. That will make all the difference in the world to the care-seekers in your life.

Obviously, the vast majority of my LGBT brethren do not choose their same-sex attraction. I know, for myself, I certainly didn’t. My whole life would have been much simpler if I’d been born straight.

Yet, as it turns out, my only real choice was to be honest and truthful, and that is what I have tried to do these past 20 years, and it’s what I intend to do till my dying day.

Stepping back for a moment, I acknowledge that this column isn’t all that much about me. I’ve traversed an often difficult road, but I’m still here, and I am happy and love God, have an amazing husband, and I am at a good place with my family, my friends, and everyone who is important to me.

This makes me blessed and fortunate. I thank God for his protection, even against those loved ones who would have unintentionally (though well-mindedly) brought me to harm.

Yet, the good fortune I’ve experienced is not guaranteed to those coming after me. These young, dear, innocent people need examples that I did not have.

Some of my friends and BAMSouth.com readers are probably extremely angry at me about now. I don’t care. This post isn’t for you, yet it could very easily be about your friend, your child, your grandchild, your nephew, or your niece.

Should they realize they’re LGBT, they’ll need your support, your guiding hand, and your unconditional love. You need to be there for them, because my Christian brethren all know that He would (and is) there for them.

It’s really somewhat scary to even write this, but I feel compelled by my love of Christ and my fellow man. So that’s why (I hope) you’re reading this.

Do you really feel it necessary to make your loved ones feel like such horrible people? On paper, or behind a computer screen, maybe you can justify it. But in reality, I simply can’t see it; and spiritually, humanly, and scripturally, I reject it. If you can abide by it, so be it.

Yet if a day arrives when a loved one comes to you with the information that he or she is LGBT, I hope you can look back on these words and support those beloved ones instead of rejecting them

And if you can’t do that, at least consider pointing them in the direction of one who will always be on the side of those in despair, those who are frightened, and those who honestly want to know what God has intended for their lives.

Let’s all get on the same side—sooner, rather than later.

Perry Stevens

Perry Stevens

Perry Stevens is a native of French Camp, Mississippi, and he graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Mississippi. He also has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Alabama-Birmingham. After several years as a Public Information Officer with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he now serves as the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Special Emphasis Program Manager for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its nearly 100,000 employees nationwide. He and his husband, Eric, have been together for 21 years, and they married in New York in 2013. They reside in Portland, TN, just north of Nashville.
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