(Readers, recall from the last two months that I'm talking to Mark, my college roommate of 28 years ago. While finishing up a pitcher of beer, I also finish answering his question, "When did you become such an advocate?" The conversation is imaginary because I missed the chance to have it last fall when I saw him at our college homecoming. But some of our best reality begins with imagination, so I'm hopeful that this is the first step toward a real conversation. In fact, tomorrow I'm mailing Mark a complete set of these last three issues!)
"outing" myself as an
kay, Mark, you asked when I became "such an advocate." I've explained how and why I became an Ally--because the how and why are really what matter most. But now that you heard me talk about empathy, faith, friendship, and experience--and how they all came together during my years in seminary and then percolated for a decade, let me tell how I found my voice. Eventually I went back to graduate school to study Christian Ethics. When I had a chance to write a paper on a topic of my choice, I picked "Homosexuality and the Lutheran Church." That paper was the first time I exercised my voice as an Ally in anything more than a private conversation. It didn't take much courage to "come out" as an Ally in a graduate school seminar class, but it did give me a valuable opportunity to assemble all the best arguments for welcoming gays and lesbians into the church and to anticipate the strongest counter arguments. We all fall back on what's most familiar when we're a little unsure, so it's only honest to say I came out first up in my head. A year later my own Lutheran congregation was discussing gays and lesbians in the Lutheran church. By the time I spoke up, I'd heard enough to know I was in a mildly hostile setting. But, bolstered by my academic work
Bolstered by my academic work and more importantly driven by my friendships, I pushed my words, my simple testimony from experience, into the circle. This was scary for me, but I did it. Afterwards I was astonished by how many others who had been silent thanked me profusely. There are a lot of silent allies out there.
by David R. Weiss
and more importantly driven by my friendships, I pushed my words, my simple testimony from experience, into the circle. This was scary for me, but I did it. Afterwards I was astonished by how many others who had been silent thanked me profusely. There are a lot of silent allies out there. But of my several steps in "coming out," the one that changed my life forever, the one that offers the clearest answer to WHEN I became such an advocate happened February 20, 1997. That evening, while a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame, I read an anonymous piece in a campus publication in which a gay man, now a senior, lamented that he had come to school four years ago knowing he was gay but scared what it would cost him at Notre Dame to come out to anyone at all. Four years later, looking ahead to graduation, he found himself, as he titled his piece, still "living in fear." I said earlier I was an "Ally-justwaiting-to-happen." I was waiting for that moment. As I read his piece something broke wide open inside me. I wrote a response to him. Not a third-person defense of being gay but a second-person letter of comfort and affirmation.
I ransacked the Bible for images of inclusion. I wrote long into the night, polishing my words while tears streamed down my face. Who can account for such moments? There is no explanation sufficient except to say I was moved by Grace from near silence into full speech in a single night. A week later my response appeared in print and I was out. Not many people at Notre Dame knew me by sight, but the whole campus now knew that whoever "David Weiss" was, he was clearly an Ally. All I've done since then is keep my mouth open. And, Mark, the words just keep coming. From some place far deeper than just my imagination. Yes, they're my words, but really my voice is just doing its best to carry a Voice that's been speaking about welcome far longer than I have. I've written newspaper op-ed pieces, preached sermons, and given classroom lectures. I taught an entire course, "GLBT Voices in Theology," that took me, along with my students, into a land richer with insight than I could have anticipated. In fact, I courted Margaret while teaching this Ally continued on page 20 9
www.qviewnorthwest.com | Q View Northwest - Spokane Edition | March 2009 |