Dear Dan —
I'm a gay man who has been seeing a devout Christian gay guy for one year. We have a great relationship. We have many of the same interests and respect each other's feelings and beliefs. However, I am a Catholic who is not that religious, and he is an Orthodox Christian.
Some of his friends oppose gay marriage and think that being gay is immoral, and they are against our relationship. Since I am not a devout Christian, his friends say we should not get married. Other friends say he should not be gay at all and that God does not love him because he is gay. I refuse to hang out with his friends because I think that they are narrow-minded morons. Am I wrong for thinking this?
Sadly, he sometimes thinks that God really does hate him because he's gay. I try to reassure him that God does not hate him. But he feels this way because of what his "good friends" say. I think he should dump these assholes. He is often upset by conversations he has with one of his friends in particular, who insists that God does not approve of him being in a gay relationship. The scary thing for me is he actually listens to these people.
Is our relationship going to work? Should he dump these bigots? Please respond to me. I need some answers. Thank you.
— Devoutly Gay Washingtonian
We've had all sorts of guest experts in the column over the years. Sex researchers, sex workers, medical doctors, sociologists, psychologists, academics, marriage activists, trans activists, and on and on. But this week's guest expert is a first.
"As a Bishop of the Church, first let me say that I am convinced that God loves DGW's boyfriend, loves DGW, loves me, loves all of us beyond our wildest imagining," said the Right Reverend Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop (Retired) of New Hampshire, the first openly gay priest to be elected bishop in a major Christian denomination. (Bishop Robinson is also the first member of the historical episcopate—the first in the Apostolic Succession stretching all the way back to Saint Peter—to appear as a guest expert in my column.) "This young man faces a couple of problems in his relationship—one that touches on religion and one that touches on what it means to be in a healthy relationship," said Bishop Robinson. "His boyfriend seems wed to a religion (Orthodoxy) and to friends who espouse the Church's traditional teaching condemning homosexuality," he said. "The most alarming thing he said is that his boyfriend is listening to them. Surely this must cause him a great deal of pain."
But it's pain your boyfriend no longer has to endure.
"The Church has gotten things wrong before—support for slavery, and using scripture to denigrate and subjugate women—and we are living in a time when the Church is realizing it has also gotten it wrong about LGBT people," said Bishop Robinson. "Today, there are oases of acceptance and inclusion even in the most oppressive and condemning churches. If DGW's boyfriend wants to understand how one can read the Scriptures and believe that homosexuality is part of God's wonderful plan of diversity, he can find such a church, even in a faith that officially condemns LGBT people. Or he can seek out a different expression of his Christian faith in a denomination that loves, values, and rejoices in its LGBT members. But this is work he needs to do for himself. DGW can't do it for him."
As for your relationship, DGW, Bishop Robinson agrees that your boyfriend's inability to break from his emotionally and spiritually abusive friends is a bad sign.
"If DGW's boyfriend is listening to the condemnation of his Church and his friends, it makes me wonder how much joy he can take in their relationship," said Bishop Robinson. "How free is he to be the gay man he knows himself to be if that is accompanied by guilt and shame? It sounds to me like DGW's boyfriend needs to deal with his own internalized homophobia before he can commit to anyone."
In other words, DGW, you may need to tell your boyfriend that he can have you or he can have his orthodoxy, his awful friends, and what, at this stage of life, amounts to a lot of self-inflicted spiritual wounds. If your boyfriend can't break away from these people, DGW, if he refuses to find a church that welcomes him (and you!), then you may need to DTMFA.
Bishop Robinson's latest book, God Believes in Love: Straight Talk About Gay Marriage, is in bookstores now. Follow Bishop Robinson on Twitter: @BishopGRobinson.