By Gordon Davies
One of my favourite New Yorker cartoons shows two gay men coming out of a movie theatre. One says to the other: “Sometimes I get tired of extrapolating.” Most of my straight friends say they don’t understand. Any LGBT person “gets it” immediately: we live in a straight world in which we have to extrapolate meaning, that is, reconstruct a lot of the common references to love, friendship, parenthood, family life and so on. In so many social situations and cultural assumptions, we look on from the margins. That’s why LGBT people relish the still-rare presentations of themselves at the centre of a movie or novel, and why we create and support LGBT film festivals, book fairs and art exhibits.
“We live in a straight world in which we have to extrapolate meaning, that is, reconstruct a lot of the common references to love, friendship, parenthood, family life and so on. In so many social situations and cultural assumptions, we look on from the margins.”
As in the cartoon, it can be tiring to constantly reinterpret cultural memes to have them make sense for us. I console myself that there is value in these daily acts of re-interpretation. We LGBT people have developed the reflex ability to project ourselves into the lives of straights in order to interpret our surroundings and survive in them. But at a deeper level, this ability to see life through somebody else’s eyes can make us grow in empathy, charity and acceptance.
LGBT people are required to have a perspective that is open to other views or we would never be able to function in our majority-straight world. If we are intentional in developing this breadth of vision, it can also make us, not just socially and culturally functional, but personally and spiritually richer. In my career as a teacher, I am most successful when I can see a point from my students’ perspective and find the words that are meaningful to them. As a manager, I have been most effective when I see a problem from various points of view. I believe my perspective as a gay has equipped me for understanding divergent views. And, when I am most open to grace, my sexual orientation has opened me to accepting Christ’s way and not my own. My orientation is not a burden or a limitation: it is a richness and a vehicle of God’s transforming redemption.