Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


May 3, 2013

Standing up in support of gay rights

— — I guess it is finally time I come out of the closet. If you don’t know me personally, you may not know this about me: I am a supporter of people living honestly, openly and freely as homosexuals. I am a supporter of gay rights.

I regret that some of you will put down the paper or click to something new and never read me again. But, please, give me just a moment to explain my opinion. Not because I want to try to change yours but simply because I don’t want you to change everything you thought you knew about me.

Don’t judge me on this one issue. If you’ve liked one thing I’ve written, agreed with me on one issue, or found any of my past thoughts or opinions interesting or reasonable enough to read even if you didn’t agree, I ask that you let me simply share.

I know I can’t defend my position Biblically and I’m not going to try. I just know Jesus dined with outcasts regularly, so if you’ve considered gays outcasts, I’m asking you to consider the possibility that Jesus would’ve been sitting at dinner with them at some point in his travels.

I realize many folks are tired of hearing about this topic, especially this week when media and the sports world is swirling with the news of the first openly gay male athlete in a major U.S. professional team sport. You have to admit, it’s pretty big news. It isn’t overreaching to compare Jason Collins to Jackie Robinson, although Robinson obviously couldn’t hide who he was and dodge prejudice simply by keeping silent.

That’s what Jason Collins did for 12 years in the NBA. He was so far back in the closet that his own twin brother, another NBA player, didn’t even know. But his aunt, a superior court judge who was the first relative he told, simply answered, “I’ve known you were gay for years.”

Collins wrote in a Sports Illustrated article, “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.” But I also found it interesting that he said, “My parents instilled Christian values in me. They taught Sunday school, and I enjoyed lending a hand. I take the teachings of Jesus seriously, particularly the ones that touch on tolerance and understanding.”

The fact that a national sports figure still playing the game came out of the closet is big news but it’s also big news that he embraces a Christian world view, because often those who share that world view don’t embrace him. To be honest, I don’t think being gay is a choice. That’s why I decided long ago I couldn’t judge the sexual orientation of another person. If the world flipped upside down and I woke up one morning being told I had no choice but to love women and find them sexually attractive, I’d argue against that. I cherish my friendships with women and I think women are beautiful to look at. But I am not interested sexually and would make a very poor lesbian. So, I can only imagine what it is like to be lesbian or be a gay male and be told, “You are supposed to like that.”

Try putting yourself in that upside down world and see how it feels.

I’ve met some wonderful people who are gay and love Jesus and follow him, better than I do most days. There are many heterosexuals who reject Jesus, reject Christianity, and ridicule Christians for their beliefs. Who do you share the most basic commonality with between those two groups of people? Your souls are in sync.

Who are you taught to love? Those who hate or persecute you. What about those who you hate and persecute? It stands to reason that you are actually supposed to love them, as well.

Maybe you know a gay person but have still thought of them as different from you, possibly lesser than you. That’s why they’re simply asking for equal rights. They are simply asking to be included in “Love one another” or “love them as you are loved.” You don’t need a court decision to tell you that. Jesus told you that.

Finally, one of my greatest interests has become suicide prevention. It is a motivation I wake up with every day that empowers me to deal with the trauma of losing my daughter to suicide. Statistics vary, but in U.S. surveys, lesbian and gay adolescents and adults have two to six times higher rates of reported suicide attempts compared to comparable straight people.

My daughter, a boy-crazy romantic, would jump into the fray when someone else was bullied about their sexual orientation.  Last May when an amendment supporting gay rights failed on the North Carolina ballot, her Facebook page was filled with friends saying, “Joc, you’d be so mad right now!” I realized then that I probably wouldn’t stand by publicly silent for much longer. I’d always been privately supportive but I knew I’d eventually come out of the closet in her honor and support the friends she supported, support my own gay friends.

If my public acceptance saves one life, it is worth it to me. I’d rather lose a reader.

I’m not trying to change your mind, I’m just trying to be accepted for who I am and what I really think and feel. Isn’t that what everyone wants?

Jaletta Albright Desmond is a columnist who writes about faith, family and the fascinatingly mundane aspects of daily life. Contact her at

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