Love Thyself

Love thyself.

That is hard to do for a man attracted to men. How are you supposed to love yourself, when the rest of the world says that that piece of you is not loveable, especially the culture that says, “God is love”. The narrative reads, “Yes, God loves you, but not that part,” and that in turn fractures a person. When people are willing to talk with you about everything else except anything that looks remotely gay, it doesn’t allow you to incorporate your whole self. When they want to small talk about everything, including the bloody weather, but they pretend your love life doesn’t exist because they’re scared of “encouraging” that piece of you, you have to deliver a self that the person will receive. You cater and tweak your identity to deliver someone that can be accepted. In doing so, you shapeshift to meet other people’s needs, not your own.

I sat down with a pastor not too long ago over lunch. After he was vulnerable about how my family and I hurt him (News Flash: pastors can get hurt too because they’re human too), he goes on to say, “Brandon, you need to know that God loves all of you, including the gay part of you.”

To hear those words felt so good, but also like blasphemy. It was like apprehensively drinking from a faucet you think might be poisoned. It felt good and refreshing, but doubt steals the blow you honestly need.

I recently spent a weekend with 1,100+ LGBTQIA+ Christians. Yep. I just said that. The whole weekend was powerful in the sense that I became normal, I was able to accept all pieces of me. Not just certain parts, but all of me. I belonged, and not just an arm or leg. All of me belonged. Though the speakers and worship were all powerful and freeing, there was an undercurrent that took me under in the least likely of places–a gay club.

After the conference, a group of us hit up a local gay club. As the bass pulsed through my body and laser lights danced on my skin, that undercurrent swallowed me whole, and I was caught in its riptide–I’m accepted, wholly accepted. In a place that most Christians would say God is not, but there be plenty of other “familiar” spirits, I experienced the love of God in the most powerful way.

Above the throng of people and the rhythm of EDM, I felt and heard a voice so calm and quiet, but far louder than all the noise, “You’re loved. All of you. All of you is lovely.” As that truth sunk deeper and deeper, I began to dance like a madman. I was pulled into the current of true acceptance.

PS, I don’t dance. You can ask my friends. I’m awkward and embody the spirit of Urkel (suspenders included). I normally jump up during a line dance because I know what’s expected of me and do it with my own flair (#mylife). Instead, without an expectation of how to dance, I danced how I wanted, knowing it was accepted, knowing the goober in me was cherished, knowing that I can be fully me and me is loved. I danced for three straight hours that night and had one of the most powerful spiritual experiences I’ve had in a long time, in the “least likely” of places.

But it’s easy to remember that truth when everyone around you is communicating it. It’s quite another to hold onto that truth in the midst of the whirlwind that is life, especially when that whirlwind wants to suck in some pieces of you and throw the others away. It rips you to shreds.

So now, in “normal life” the wake of a breakup, it’s really hard to remember that. The person that would remind me of that is now gone. And that’s when I realized… I didn’t just want someone to love that piece of me, I needed someone to love that piece of me, and the result was putting pressure on someone to meet needs I needed to meet in myself.

I went out dancing (because I now love it since it’s an act of accepting myself) with a friend. He said, “I don’t see many healthy gay relationships.” He’s someone that’s working out his sexuality, and that reality makes it hard to even see a relationship with a guy. The fact of the matter is it’s true. When I look around at the gay culture, I do see a lot of unhealthy relationships, and I think a rejection of self is a key reason. So many LGBTQIA+ humans have denied and not loved this piece of who they are. They’ve ostracized portions of themselves. So when someone affirms that orphaned portion, they, in turn, need that person to keep affirming that orphaned piece of themselves. And unfortunately, a lot of times, the other person is looking for the exact same thing. Now, instead of two whole people delighting in each other, you have two fractured people that need each other, unable to offer all they are, because they haven’t reconciled themselves. They finally are having pieces of themselves loved that they are unwilling to love themselves and to lose that is terrifying. They can’t lose it.

It’s like parching a thirst you didn’t even know was there because you’ve stuffed it down for so long. Now that the thirst has been quenched, you have no clue how to live without it. And unfortunately, society has done a terrible job of quenching that thirst. The desperation builds, twisted with shame, and you quench the thirst in the dark places. Why? Because you haven’t accepted them. How can you bring it forward and love it, when everyone will shame you for doing so? Fear and shame force you to put pieces of you in a corner and punish it with a dunce cap.

What does this do to our psyche? What does this create? You get men looking for hookups on Grindr when they just need this piece of them loved. You get men who have to take a pill to not get HIV because they can’t find the right guy so the find the right now guy. You get men who get drunk and take off their clothes on a dance floor because they just want this denied piece of them to be seen and loved. You get married men who all of a sudden want to open their relationship to a third.

This internalized homophobia, this self-hatred is robbing all of us. It’s robbing us of health. In our relationships. In our family. In our internal world. Because we’ve been told a piece of us is unlovely and we refuse to love that piece of us, we will latch onto anyone that will love that piece of us.

I have a question, how are you supposed to embrace someone when you’ve chopped off an arm? How are you supposed to run through life when you only have one leg? This is what happens when we fracture ourselves. We amputate pieces of us. Then we find a relationship that allows us to do a “three-legged” race through life. But when the one person wants to go one way, and you need to go the other, you panic. How can you continue on without your legs? No person deserves this pressure. It breaks people and demands things from them that we’re meant to give to ourselves or find in God.

At conference, I saw healthy gay relationships. And you know what they had? Each person was loving themselves, all of themselves. They weren’t looking to their partner to meet that need. They weren’t asking a person to love them in a way that only God could. They finally believed God loved that piece of them, and they could, in turn, love that piece of themselves. They didn’t need a person to love them. And in doing this, they could offer a whole self to the other person. A healthy relationship blossoms for the world to see.

This blog post came from one such healthy gay relationship. The relationship that he and his fiancé share honestly gives me hope. Healthy relationships with the same gender are possible, and I think it happens when we first love ourselves, when we know in the depth of our being, every piece of us is lovely before God. You can undo the very curse Adam and Eve brought upon themselves. “Who told you were naked?” In other words, “Who told you ‘You need to carry shame’?” You don’t need to hide behind the fig leaf anymore. Your arms and legs are not just accepted by God, even those private and intimate places are lovely to the Father. You can love all of you because God loves all of you. And that’s what this couple has done the hard work of doing.

My friend told me, “If my fiancé left me today, I’d be okay. It would hurt. But I’d be okay. Because more than loving my fiancé, I love myself. I love me some me.” In doing this, my friend isn’t looking to his fiancé to meet places in his heart, and when he doesn’t get them, he gets angry. He meets those needs in himself through the help of God, and in doing so, offers a whole self to his fiancé. It’s beautiful to see.

Fractured pieces mold back to wholeness. Silhouetted shadows are brought to the light, offered to the world and your partner.

Regardless of sexuality, I see lots of people get into toxic relationships just to have a piece of us loved that we’ve deemed unlovely. But before we can give ourselves to the world in any healthy way at all, before I can give myself to another person, I want to love myself completely. I want to own and bring to light every piece of me. I wanna cherish all my legs and embrace all my arms, and I wanna love every piece. I wanna “love me some me”. I think that’s the reason this blog exists, to bring a piece of me forward that I’ve hidden for so long to simply say, “I see you and you’re worth being seen,” and in doing so, cultivate some health in my life, because I sure as Hell need.

To close this thing out, I’ll quote my friend who quotes the legendary RuPaul, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen up in here?”

Love yourself. You’re worth it. Jesus thought so. He died for that person. Why call Jesus a liar by calling pieces of who you are unlovable?

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